Looking Beyond NDTV Frauds

We need to get the Govt. to enact laws to avoid such frauds in future

Beyond NDTV frauds
Beyond NDTV frauds

Let’s all look beyond NDTV frauds

NDTV Frauds by Sree Iyer is eminently readable, simplifying the complex issues involved. But for the hot pursuit and perseverance of a few honest bureaucrats, politicians and citizens, the whole issue may have been buried alive.

Our forefathers who made the constitution did provide reasonable safeguards in the constitution but didn’t envisage the extent to which this rot could go.

If we believe NDTV frauds is a one-off case, we are sadly mistaken. Typically large corporates invest 100s or 1000s of crores of Rupees, promote mega companies, get huge bank loans, get controlling interest, over-invoice capital goods and construction bills and get their entire investment back before the company is inaugurated, go public, rig the stock prices and keep milking money. And then, they make commissions on bills for raw material purchase every month.

Many big Hospitals, Schools, Engineering and Medical Colleges across the country belong to politicians, with an innocuous looking public face shown as the owner.

Wile the promoters and co-conspirators of NDTV should be punished for their frauds, I also want us to also see beyond NDTV frauds. Ten years from today, will the situation be any better? If not, we need to do something about it today.

We need a system whereby such frauds can’t happen any longer. Bureaucrats and politicians should not be allowed to take decisions on issues in which they have conflicts of interest. Ministers and other politicians should not be allowed to facilitate frauds and scuttle probes against these powerful people.

Our forefathers who made the constitution did provide reasonable safeguards in the constitution but didn’t envisage the extent to which this rot could go. So, we may need to revisit some of the basic assumptions they had made while drafting the Constitution.

To start with, we should recognize that some crimes by some people could be a million times more harmful than similar crimes by a common man, and so laws should not apply equally to all criminals. The crimes that Ministers, political functionaries, bureaucrats and businesspersons commit can damage the entire society, irreparably.

For example, lakes and rivers have been converted to layouts and sold by politicians, in collusion with bureaucrats and businesspersons for personal gains and the damage this has caused in terms of loss of water bodies and ecology is permanent, several orders of magnitude higher than the pecuniary benefits they got. The society suffers in the form of floods, drought, deaths, loss of livelihoods, and more. Has any politician, bureaucrat or businessperson who committed such a crime ever been identified and punished?

Judiciary has often been either a complicit or an indifferent party to it, though it has sometimes punished the guilty, even if late.

They have colluded in purchasing poor quality defence equipment and protective gear that has cost the lives of 1000s of soldiers. They have given jobs to their friends/ relatives/ others (in return for bribes). Politicians and police, in collusion, have subverted law and order and are making a mockery of democracy. There are a million such instances across India. They’ve all gone un-punished.

Judiciary has often been either a complicit or an indifferent party to it, though it has sometimes punished the guilty, even if late.

During monarchy, India had examples where the punishment for corruption and other crimes against the nation used to be exemplary, even death. Now we follow UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence ), but many countries have made course corrections based on experience.

Since the level of corruption in India is very high, we will be justified in making some course corrections as well. Tenet of the justice system should not be just to protect the accused, but also to protect the society from powerful criminals. Why should people suffer criminal acts of the rich and powerful?

As per our criminal justice system, everyone charged with the criminal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. We may consider introducing a third status apart from “innocence” and “guilt”, like “under investigation” without the stigma of guilt, but without the benefit of innocence.

We may consider inclusion of the criminal background of the accused (only in respect of politicians, bureaucrats and businesspersons) in legal cases, like in UK, since many criminals are habitual offenders.

SC has already set a precedent in Jaya-Sasi DA case that, after the prima facie case has been established, the accused should show proof of legitimate income rather than the prosecution having to prove guilt. This dictum can be extended to other kinds of criminal cases against politicians, bureaucrats and businesspersons as well.

The law says every accused has the right against self-incrimination, but should this be permitted in cases involving corruption and other criminal acts against the society? Suspects in such cases may be compelled to answer questions, and failure to give information may be made prejudicial at trial. Criminal penalties including imprisonment may be levied, for example, for failing to decrypt data on request from the Police.

Punishment in cases involving corruption, misuse of power or position, etc can be Four times of normal punishment for the common man, and two times for bureaucrats and colluding big businesspersons. But if the charges are disproved and the dishonesty of the complainant is proved, the punishment to the false complainant and co-conspirators should be as exemplary, to prevent unfair targeting of good politicians, bureaucrats and businesspersons.

It may substantially reduce political corruption as those who come into politics to make money will find it less attractive. But it could lead to execution paralysis as bureaucrats with no motivation to serve the nation, and not necessarily corrupt, may still want to be part of bureaucracy merely because of job security. So, performance appraisal based weeding out will at several stages in career may be required.

To prevent frivolous and dishonest charges, those “under investigation” need not be asked to step down from their positions, but they should not be allowed to be in positions where they can influence their cases.Politicians and bureaucrats are most unlikely to enact such laws. We should create public opinion and get the Governments to enact such laws, making the cost of inflicting fraud on the nation high.

Our courts also take their own sweet time to deliver verdicts. They should do their bit by delivering speedy justice too, which will make powerful criminals think many times before committing frauds.

All these may appear pipe dreams, but we should place such solutions on the table so that democracy pushes the powers that be towards such solutions, even if only slowly. Unless we solve this issue soon, we’ll continue to have NDTV Frauds for generations..

1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Ganesan Subramanian

An Engineer-entrepreneur and Africa Business Consultant, Ganesan has many suggestions for the Government and sees the need for the Govt to tap the ideas of its people to perform to its potential.

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