Landmark Judgment


The judgment on Saturday by the Special Court in Bangalore which convicted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha of corruption and sentenced her to four years in prison, over and above a fine of Rs. 100 crores, in the disproportionate assets case, was to say the least, explosively landmark. There would be few, in any, who were not left gaping in disbelief at the news that such a judgment can every have happened in India. Though startling that such a tough ruling can ever be pronounced against a serving Chief Minister, not many people would have been disappointed. First and foremost, it was an assertion that in a democracy, everybody is equal before the law. This vital premise of democratic law for long had seemed buried forever in India, with VIPs and their children treating the country and its laws as their personal fiefdom, and nobody, not even the courts able to do anything about it so far. Corruption perpetrated by them is everywhere. Beginning from brazen and perennial robbery of the public exchequer, to openly breaking traffic rules, they have virtually turned the law upside down.

Second reason why the judgment would have been enthusiastically welcomed universally in India is because the ruling provided hope that the country can be salvaged from the corruption which has condemned it, to borrow the words of the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to `One Hundred Years of Solitude`. There is no need to even explain that corruption has permeated into every pore of India. It exists at every level of public life and business, and because almost everybody has been a part of it sometime or the other, nobody can even accuse another of corruption. People in glass houses would not throw stones at others, for return stones can also shatter their own houses.

In Manipur, the mood is one of anticipation that similar justice could be on its way here too. That corruption has corroded all vital organs of Manipur is today a truism. Although in terms of volume, the money rendered black by corruption in Manipur would be only a fraction of what happens in bigger mainland Indian States, it is quite likely in terms of its depth and spread, Manipur would rank as amongst the highest. Nothing moves without bribes in the officialdom. Apart from a few shining examples of entrepreneurship which have made the men behind them wealthy, nearly all of Manipur`™s disproportionately rich would be government officials and government contractors. This has split the society into two poles. On one are a class of very rich and on the other an increasing number of extremely poor. When we refer to the rich in the Manipur context however, the scale is not based on the annual income tax returns they file, but measured in terms of the marble palaces they build and the properties they acquire. The depressing part of it all is, everybody has come to believe this is normal, and to be in a position of receiving bribes is coveted as a privilege. There is no longer any shame in corruption, and therefore even petty officials, with very limited legal sources of incomes, have no reservation about vulgarly displaying their wealth.

In direct proportion to the prevalent corruption are the crumbling infrastructures of the State. Black toppings of roads peel off every monsoon, only skeletal frames remain of many government school and college buildings, government officials are absent from their seats for most of the time causing immense public inconvenience and the list can go on. But above all this, corruption has destroyed not only the belief that truth and honesty ultimately prevail but also severely inhibited talent, for it has made sure only bribe in its various avatars is the only way to reach the top of the social hierarchy, and little else matter. This ruthless murder of talent is much more dangerous for the society in the long run than even the sense of injustice induced by the eyesore of the corrupt becoming inordinately rich. For this stunting of talent would result in an overall withering away of the spirit of innovation and invention, and without these qualities, the survival chances of any society or civilisation would become increasingly limited. We do earnestly hope the Bangalore ruling becomes a national trend and that it reaches Manipur too, and disproportionate assets of anybody, from the most powerful government official to the seedy businessman, are made accountable to the law. This is said not with any desire for envious vendetta, but in the hope that the return of a just society will be able to save Manipur not just from its present crippling problems, but also from any possibility of a collapse anytime in the future.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam


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