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25 May 2012

Bangaru Laxman - Corruption and Punishment

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba


Crime and punishment is often talked about but corruption is punishment is seldom being heard. Most of the time we hear about scam and corruption but punishment is rare of the rarest. If at all punishment is being meted out its only to some low ranking office staff.


The fight against corruption got a shot in the arm when the former BJP president Bangaru Laxman was convicted under anti-corruption law for accepting bribe and was sent to Tihar jail.
It’s for the first time that a politician was convicted in corruption case.  The court awarded Laxman four years jail term and imposed a fine of Rs one lakh.


The conviction of former BJP President revives memories of NDA's rule under the premiership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, This  scandal claimed then defence minister George Fernandez besides Laxman.


Laxman caught the attention of the nation, as the then BJP president, when he was shown on the TV channels putting bundles of cash away in his drawer.


It took 11 long years for the law enforcing authorities to finally nail him down and also convict him under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


The sting operation conducted by then Theleka dotcom was amazing. It sent a decoy representing a fictitious arms firm to make a deal with Laxman.


As apart of the deal, the BJP President would recommend to the Defence Ministry to give this firm a contract for supplying "thermal binoculars" to the Army.


The decoy gave Laxman, a bribe of Rs 1 lakh in bundles of .currency notes that he accepted and kept it in his drawer. This  act was recoded on camera and subsequently flashed on the TV channels. 
 
The unpleasant visuals unleashed a political storm and took away the sheen from the Vajpayee government that claimed to represent a party with a ‘difference’.


The Special CBI judge held that the 72-year-old Laxman was guilty under the under the Prevention of Corruption Act and instead of giving him a maximum of five years in jail limited to four for accepting bribe.


Laxman, had moved the High Court, after spending ten days in Tihar jail seeking quashing of the trial court's conviction on medical grounds. But the Delhi High Court refused to suspend the sentence.


With this conviction Laxman earned the dubious distinction of being the first politician to be arrested under the graft charges and sent to jail.


There are two facets of it, one that the convict belonged to the BJP, the party that claimed to be moral and cultural upholder of Indian nation.


The second, Laxman is a Madiga Dalit from Andhra Pradesh and to many his conviction is another Brahminical conspiracy to use and abuse a Dalit. 
 
Nonetheless, the conviction of Laxman comes as a setback to BJP at a time when it is targeting the Congress over graft scandals.


Will similar kind of judgment would come in spectrum cases, that’s what is being anxiously watched.


[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

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