It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief

I just read the statement made by senior counsel K. K. Venugopal, appearing for CVC Mr. P J Thomas in the Supreme Court of India in defense of his client. He told the court that an alarming 28.3 per cent of MPs have serious charges against them but they are the people making our laws. He said that the law was not averse to such people holding high offices. There are 153 MPs in our Parliament, safeguarding our interests, who have been charge sheeted for criminal offences. Article 102 of the Constitution does not disqualify a convicted person from being an MP.  The Representation of the People Act does not disqualify convicted persons.
So what is wrong if the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, who oversees that our nation does not engage in corrupt practices, is charge sheeted for criminal offences himself? After all, isn’t this how we operate anyway? What is the big surprise? Why are the courts making so much fuss over this issue?
This is the state of our nation today. We are proudly proclaiming that we are corrupt people. We have put in effect laws and regulations to allow us to engage in corruption and prevent any “ill minded” adventurous citizen from taking any legal action against us. We have diligently worked to accomplish all this and now that it is our time to benefit from our hard work, why is Supreme Court getting in the middle?
Of course a better question would be: what was Supreme Court doing so far? Was it sleeping when these laws and internal regulations were being put in effect at an alarming rate? Did the judiciary not take similar steps to protect its own members from being prosecuted?

Just pause to think about it. Any law that does not pass common sense is likely to be created with convoluted logic to benefit specific interests.  Would you appoint a person covicted of criminal offenses to safe guard your house, business or your family simply because he/she states that the conviction has been appealed?  You apply special considerations and leave no doubts or leeway in qualifying such an individual.  Yet when it comes to selecting individuals to safeguard our nation we do not apply any such considerations! 

People aspiring to hold public office should be held to a higher standard of ethics and personal conduct than an ordinary citizen. 
In what developed and respectable democracy is it practiced to allow a person charge sheeted or convicted of a criminal offence (even if the process is under appeal) to run for a public office or be appointed to a high public office? But then again, we are different! We have our proud history and traditions. We set our own ideals. We create our own vision, missions, goals and objectives.
The Supreme Court has no business questioning the qualifications of P. J. Thomas. We know he is the right person for the job of CVC. The world may not be aware but we are: It takes a Thief to Catch a Thief.


More by :  Dr. Gopal Singh

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Views: 3370      Comments: 12

Comment Dinesh Ji,

The items in your first three paragraphs point out systemic deficiencies that can be hopefully corrected if we continue to press for.

I believe that aam adami, in spite of his/her, fallacies is quite capable of making the right choice if the systemic deficiencies are corrected first. Look at what happened in Bihar. With slight improvements in the voting process implemented by the Election Commission, the aam aadmi eventually elected Nitish Kumar and uprooted Lalu Yadav and Paswan who had hijacked the elections in the past. The system has to be conducive to offer proper options in the first place. For that it needs to get rid of the problems that you so well alluded to.

11-Feb-2011 05:16 AM

Comment Abhay ji & Gopal ji,

I don't think there is any issue on availability of good candidates based on competency level. Rather, the current system prevents more capable and honest people from contesting and winning elections. There are numerous examples of this - if one starts finding such cases.

Yes, the tainted MPs are hard to be replaced if not irreplaceable ! Reason, the current system enables them to win elections rather easily. E.g. there is no regulation to prevent them from contesting elections, neither media exposes such candidates effectively nor the opposition uses this as point. Opposition has its own choice to provide ticket to equally suitable candidate.

Further, the tainted candidates help the party win seats, because they can spend much more money in elections (than honest candidates). The system allows to spend large and unaccounted money in elections. Candidates are allowed to create support groups based on muscle power, small and specific agenda to benefit some section, cast, language and event localities. I am surprised to see how media openly provides analysis on winning probability based on cast votes ! And there is no regulation even to discourage such practices to divide people.

Last but not the least, we expect aam aadmi to vote sensibly without having insider info in front of him. If you talk to an 'aam voter', you will realize that seats are won based on trivial issues, such as clothing & make up style, physical appearance of the candidate, the way a candidates talks rather than what he/she talks about and also how much power a candidate has on his own and so on.

It's my firm belief that without proper guidance 'aam aadmi' can not vote sensibly - as it happens across globe - whether in India or in Europe/USA or anywhere else. But if system is changed in right manner then it can still bring a lot of difference on the quality of the rulers.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
11-Feb-2011 04:21 AM

Comment Ashby Ji,

I agree with your third paragraph, but I do take issues with the first two.

I do not think that the Indian public believes that the politicians or bureaucrats who have been charge sheeted or convicted are being tolerated because they are irreplaceable. I invite comments from other readers if they agree with me on this observation. The charge sheeted are there because regulations have been put in place to protect them from prosecution while in office. The convicted ones are there because the Representation of People Act does not disqualify them as long as they file an appeal. Tell me if a convicted person will be allowed to run for public office in Britain. The solution is not to start prosecuting all of them one by one after they get in. We need to simply repeal these regulations as unconstitutional and prevent these people from running for public office in the first place. The charge sheeted can run for office but should be stripped of their shield from being prosecuted while in office. There may be still better options that can be put in place to address this loop hole.

As far as my aspiration to see the government with people of flawless integrity, it is quite right to aspire for that. However, I have seen the world and experienced the human race for plenty of years to comprehend that this is not pragmatic. Corruption goes on even in the western democratic governments but it does not choke the system and debilitate the public from carrying on their daily life and does not prevent the poor from basic opportunities to empower themselves.

10-Feb-2011 23:44 PM

Comment It seems to me that retention of their posts in the Indian parliament by so-called 'charge sheeted' individuals has to do with their irreplaceability on a level of competence in the job to hand. That might explain why their presence is tolerated in the day to day running of government business. The solution appears not to be in prosecuting charge-sheeted MPs at enormous public expense; it is recognising that such is the condition of man, whoever he may be, whoever be the replacement of whoever is prosecuted, in the context of Indian life.

One could according to Dr. Gopal Singh realistically aspire to a corruption free system in Indian government, constituted of individuals of flawless integrity: impossible, based on the present day evidence! The present scene in Indian politics is the state of equilibrium in the context of the times.

This 'state of equilibrium' be it of corrupt practice in public or the the poverty of the slums is its own evidence. We would all like to see something done about it, but we must also accept what we see as representing the reality. This is not to say we accept this as the norm, but that it is the norm, and very little if anything can be done about it, as proved in the attempt. This must not discourage us from trying to remove corruption, but our efforts must be effectual, which means the source must be identified, and that is in the very forces that makes India the society it is. What rises to the top as scum must be boiled up through the body politic.

10-Feb-2011 20:19 PM

Comment Birds of same feather flock together.

10-Feb-2011 05:25 AM

Comment Dinesh Ji,

You bring up an interesting point. I request our readers to offer their views on your question.

10-Feb-2011 05:10 AM

Comment Dear Dr. Singh,

The point that prosecution process needs permission/approval from superiors is generally known and not discussed in media even in this hot time when so many mega scandals are unearthed almost simultaneously.

Apart from this, I wonder, if UPA-1 could get away easily with those mega scandals done without problems, how came they are now getting exposed during UPA-2 which is run by the same politicians ?

Can someone put his understanding to answer this ?


Dinesh Kumar Bohre
10-Feb-2011 04:43 AM

Comment Prem Ji,

It is clear to me that I would never make it as a satirist. I was attempting to inject humor in stating that "It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief". My intent was to show how ludicrous is the defense argument being put forward by Mr. Thomas - "most of the government is corrupt so why single me out?"

I would never condone the appointment of any high level government official whose record is tainted.

09-Feb-2011 23:01 PM

Comment I felt amused by Dr. Gopal Singh's analysis entitled, "It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief." And, he did weave a plausible story around P.J. Thomas as the right person for the job of CVC. But then again, we are different! Who is setting a thief to catch a thief?

09-Feb-2011 11:51 AM

Comment Dinesh Ji,

You bring good points. The problem is that after being charge sheeted these high level bureaucrats are sheilded by their superiors by denying the permission to prosecute them. The very process of needing permission from the superiors (beyond a limited time window) is questionable in its legality particularly when it is denied virtually all the time. Are these regulations constitutional that have been put in effect by various branches of the givernment for self preservation? Mr. Thomas knows that as soon as he quits the post his shield will be taken away and he will be liable for prosecution. How do you draw the fox out of the hole?

I have proposed in an earlier article that instead of stalling the Parliament for a JPC probe which will only have a limited permanent impact, NDA should insist on arriving at a comprehensive systemic solution to corruption problem throgh legislation as the first priority agenda for the upcoming Parliament session.

09-Feb-2011 09:37 AM

Comment We are now reduced to a laughing stock... The tripod of democracy - legislative, the execuive and the judiciary, as we observe today has started to shake. There is strong attack on judiciary both from the legislative and executive, because it is coming on their way of misadventure. Even our erudite PM says the judiciary should not derail or deaccelerate our progress. Blow from the blue on poor Indians!
The legislative and executive are not within the reach of the common man, only a poor man can knock the door of judiciary for help. If that dooe is closed by the policy makers, there will be nothing left in the country.
As it appears, thief is a relative term - a fund-raiser for his master and a sinner for others... Only god needs to incarnate to set things right!

09-Feb-2011 09:15 AM

Comment Dear Dr. Singh,

Two points on the subject:

Point# 1: Convicted people to be barred from all influential positions:

Definitely convicted people must be barred from all positions that influence mass.
Going a step forward, apart from barring such people from any post in parliament, state assemblies, govt. institutes, bureaucracy etc. they should also be barred from other positions that influence mass, such as news media, movie & TV entertainment etc.
(So, in this manner, even Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt should be barred from their job in Movies.)

I believe that this is an imp point too since media is getting stronger now a days and convicted people will certainly use this influence intentionally or unintentionally for their own benefit and for the damage to the society.

Point# 2: Charge sheets can be misused:

153 MPs are charge sheeted for criminal offenses, as of now their removal from parliament will only benefit the country as most of them are real criminals.
But, if a rule is imposed that bars anyone having any charge sheet, then the 'smart' people in politics will immediately find a way to disqualify honest and powerful opponents from contesting elections - then all will be needed is a charge sheet just before election, the court may later provide a clean chit !!

This is tricky; probably setup of a new independent body to decide on such matters may help.


Dinesh Kumar Bohre
09-Feb-2011 06:40 AM

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