In order to avoid a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G Spectrum scam the government proposed that the Supreme Court (SC) should oversee a CBI probe of the scandal. I wrote in the article "Monitoring CBI Probe ...": “The Supreme Court should firmly reject the proposal even before the opposition responds to it. The fiasco enacted during the Jain Hawala case remains too fresh in memory.” The probe in that case was monitored by the SC with disastrous results. However, after the SC started monitoring several current cases it seemed I was mistaken. There was visible movement forward in the investigations.
Alas, success was only momentary. Now, as originally feared, the SC seems to be out of its depth. Investigation and prosecution are losing all credibility. When Mr. Uday Lalit, who is defending accused money launderer Hasan Ali, was appointed special prosecutor in the 2G scam case the government quoted a technicality to block his appointment proposed by the CBI. This was after I had pointed out in these columns that there existed possible conflict of interest since it was conceivable that some of Hasan Ali’s clients could also figure in the 2G scam. The SC in its wisdom overruled the government and ignored the objection I had voiced to confirm Mr. Lalit as the special prosecutor.
Now what has followed is worse. It transpires that Mr. Lalit will also be defending in court Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, accused in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) scam. This entails not merely a potential but a clear and visible conflict of interest. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating both the 2G scam and the CWG scam. As special prosecutor Mr. Lalit has an allied role with ED in the 2G scam probe, but an adversarial role in the CWG scam probe. By what supreme logic is the SC allowing Mr. Lalit to discharge both these responsibilities?
Whatever public goodwill that the SC had acquired after monitoring the several ongoing cases of corruption, it is now rapidly eroding. The SC judges should know that justice should not only be done but also seen to be done. The delay by a Special CBI court in determining the bail application of Ms. Kanimozhi till after the Tamil Nadu assembly elections results were out raised many eyebrows. It did little to enhance the judiciary's reputation. It is against the law to show contempt for courts. The law compels all citizens to respect the judiciary. What the law forgot to specify was that respect cannot be arbitrarily ordered. Respect has to be earned.
Related Article: Monitoring CBI Probe: Will Supreme Court Repeat Disaster?