Dead man’s woes
Sir — Respect for the dead should have its limits, at least when it comes to crimes as serious as the ones Hansie Cronje now seems to have been almost certainly guilty of (“Cricket cash trial to Cayman”, March 17). As is evident from the near shambles in which South African cricket now finds itself, Cronje’s legacy — both in corruption as well as in cricket — lives on. Thus it is strange that South Africa’s director of public prosecutions felt there was no sense in carrying on the investigation after Cronje died because “there was nobody left to prosecute”. At least the money stashed away in the “71 or 72 accounts” could have been recovered. As things now stand, one cannot but help suspecting that, under the garb of respect for the dead, the South African board is trying to protect other living villains. It should know that the truth in such cases is never an embarrassment. Rather it has a very necessary cathartic effect, something that is required to cleanse the game.
Ramanuj Joshi, Calcutta
Nothing to declare
Sir — The reason why politicians across the board are angry at the Supreme Court’s insistence that electoral candidates declare criminal cases, assets and liabilities, and educational qualifications at the time of filing nominations has nothing to do with principles. Declaring educational qualifications never bothered any candidate in an Indian election. Even criminal cases can be explained away as being false and politically motivated. Unpaid bank loans can also be explained away as losses in business ventures.
But the real difficulty are the crores of rupees of unpaid dues. Even “eminent” candidates like former prime ministers have not paid electricity bills, telephone charges, house rent, aircraft hire charges and so on. Over the years, the accumulated sum has become so large that payment is next to impossible. If candidates are forced to declare all this at the time of filing their papers, it leaves the opposition with much scope for mischief. So the only choice left for such politicians is to retire from active politics. The other difficulty lies in what assets to declare in the face of all the tax implications such declarations will have.
Should we not, in order to clean up politics, applaud the efforts of the Supreme Court instead of offering our politicians fig-leaves like the “separation of powers between legislature and judiciary”, “practicability” and so on — as the editorial, “Law in Practice” (March 15), does'
Alok Sarkar, Calcutta
Sir — With elections in many states round the corner, the Supreme Court’s ruling is a blow to all the parties who, by “consensus”, had diluted the earlier verdict of the Supreme Court and tried to get it passed through the backdoor, thinking they could get away with it.
The apex court’s verdict will help curb criminalization of politics and ensure transparency in the electoral process. At present no one can enter politics, much less become a member of any legislature, state or Central, unless he has some connections with criminals or owns wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income.
The amendment had diluted the May 2, 2002, order of the Supreme Court, but the court has ruled that the legislature has no power to ask “the instrumentalities of the state to disobey or disregard the decision given by the court”. It also ruled that exposure to public scrutiny was the surest way of purging our democracy and legislature.
It remains to be seen now whether the parties respect the verdict of the Supreme Court. The parties might again try to wriggle out of the situation by proposing yet another amendment to the Representation of the People’s Act. But any attempt to nullify or dilute the apex court’s decree must be treated as contempt of court. The chief election commissioner, armed with this recent verdict, must use his constitutional powers under Article 324 to ensure that the directives of the Election Commission are complied with. The court should now find ways to prevent misbehaviour within legislatures which not only tarnishes the image of our country but is also a massive drain on the exchequer.
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur
Sir — The editorial, “Law in Practice”, suggests that active participation in the law-making process does not fall within the purview of the Supreme Court. The apex court deemed the amendment to the Representation of the People’s Act unconstitutional, saying Parliament had acted beyond its competence and restricted the voter’s right to know. The court’s earlier order requiring a political aspirant to come clean on his antecedents was premised on the voter’s right to know, an extension of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Since the amendment curtailed the voter’s right to information, it was rightly struck down as it tampered with the basic structure of the Constitution.
B.C. Dutta, Calcutta
Sir — The Supreme Court’s March 13 directive was a rebuff to our politicians. They had compelled the president, who once returned it, to pass the amendments to the Representation of the People’s Act. The apex court should now carry on the good work by ensuring that the other reforms suggested by the EC are implemented, because left to our selfish politicians they will never see the light of day. For example, horse-trading in assemblies can be checked if the election of chief ministers, speakers and deputy speakers is conducted by secret ballot.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Delhi
Sir — The courage of those who filed the public interest litigation against the amendment to the Representation of the People’s Act must be appreciated
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Sir — This judgment will go down as a landmark with regard to the corruption, nepotism and scandals within the body politic.
Prasanta Kumar Ghosh, Barasat