From Jain to Koda: Open Letter to Pranab Mukherjee

Dear Mr Mukherjee, 

I do hope you recall me. Our personal interaction though brief goes back a long way. We first met when you kindly invited me to participate in a dialogue on current affairs with late EMS Namboodiripad which you moderated and which was organized by a Calcutta journal that published it verbatim in its annual issue. 

I take the liberty of writing to you because our nation is in crisis due to a multi-pronged assault on governance that has left our political system tottering. There has arisen a historic opportunity to cleanse the system, destroy the prevailing corrupt political culture and reclaim democratic governance. That historic opportunity has been offered to you.  

I refer to the ongoing Koda case involving corruption in mining operations, the exposure of huge Hawala transactions and the spread of astronomical illegal investments abroad. The investigation of this case is by the Enforcement Directorate that functions under your jurisdiction. I presume to alert you because more than a decade ago I was one of the four petitioners who took the similar Jain Hawala case to the Supreme Court. I can claim some familiarity with how that case was subverted. 

There are startling similarities and important differences between the Jain Hawala case and the Koda case. In the earlier case diaries were seized listing the names of leading politicians cutting across party lines who received Hawala money from SK Jain. I understand that the diary seized in the Koda case also contains as recipients the names of political leaders cutting across major parties.

However in the current case the sums of illegal money involved are manifold higher than in the earlier case. Moreover in the earlier scandal the money distributed to political leaders was in most cases for use in an imminent general election. Receiving black money for electoral purpose did not conform to law but to widely accepted custom. The complication arose because part of the same consignment of Hawala money was also passed on to Kashmir terrorists. That was why the seizure of the Jain diary resulted in a TADA case in which unwittingly leading politicians got involved. That was why the politicians did not own up. That was why a huge cover-up was effected. That was why permanent and irretrievable damage to the system occurred. 

Briefly, this was how the cover-up took place. First, an honest CBI officer investigating the TADA case was framed on corruption charges and removed from the investigation. Thereafter contrary to law the TADA case against the politicians was converted to plain corruption and FERA cases. Thereby the anti-terrorist probe was aborted. One of those involved in the terrorism case, Syed Sallaudin, who was a minor disgruntled politician then, rose years later to head the terrorist Hizbul Mujahideen organization and is currently based in Pakistan . 

After Prime Minister Narasimha Rao took action by removing the ministers indicted by CBI in the Supreme Court, after the leader of the opposition was compelled to resign by his party due to being indicted, the cover-up machine went into operation. In an event unrelated to the case Jain confessed that he had also paid money to the PM. That confession was rushed to the Supreme Court and entered as evidence by a junior CBI officer without clearance by his seniors. He did this at the behest of a friend in the BJP determined to scuttle the case in order to protect the resigned leader of the opposition. 

Not only was the CBI subverted. The Supreme Court was also subverted. Two of the Judges on the Bench hearing the case were entertained in the house of one of the accused Jain brothers. One of the petitioners, Mr Vineet Narain, wrote most damaging charges of corruption and moral turpitude against the Judges entertained by the accused, in a small journal he owned and published. No contempt notice was issued. The SC Bar Association filed a defamation case against Mr Narain. During the hearing of that case one of the accused Judges admitted visiting the house of the accused but claimed that he came to know of his identity only later. Why did he not recuse himself from the case subsequently? Most astoundingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the case without penalizing Mr Narain and merely warned him! 

In the final order dismissing the case for lack of evidence the SC suggested a change in the manner of appointing the Central Vigilance Commission in order to enable its independent functioning. The Jain Hawala case was invoked to justify this Court order. How could a case that was dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence be cited to justify such an order to amend the system? Violating propriety Judges of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court after retirement accepted Constitutional posts from politicians who had been exonerated by them in this case. The former Chief Justice of India who presided over the Bench hearing the case many years later advised that the investigation of the case be reopened and the case be given a fresh hearing in the Court. It might be recalled that the investigation of the case was under direct supervision of the Supreme Court to prevent political interference. And some years later Jain was made to pay a huge penalty for violating FERA. So Jain was punished, two Kashmiri separatists were punished, but no politician suffered! 

In the current Koda case electoral considerations are not involved. The case relates to plain corruption and a brazen subversion of the system. Is there any need for me to reiterate the enormous damage to governance and the rule of law that has already been wrought on the system by such subversion? It can be safely said that the predominant influence on the nation’s politics and economy today is by a criminal mafia that has international ramifications and a direct bearing on the nation’s escalating terrorism. Public disenchantment with the political system has reached dangerous proportions. Indian democracy is perched on a volcano. 

If you as the Minister overseeing the investigation ensure that it is carried to its logical conclusion you may hurt several political parties including your own party. But you will preserve democracy and save the system that is faltering on its last legs. And you are functioning before a public much wiser and angrier than ever before after it has witnessed a succession of major corruption cases in which the powerful have escaped scot-free. So please do reflect on the stakes for the nation, Mr Mukherjee. History is repeating itself. It ended as tragedy in the Jain Hawala case. Do not let it end this time as a farce. 

Yours etcetra, 


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

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