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Prime Minister reminded of a postcard

Anjali Dhal Samanta

Sunday 4 July 2004, by SAMANTA*Anjali Dhal

NEW DELHI, JULY 4. A silent campaigner against corruption, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is the only hope for this dedicated group who have devoted themselves to the "service of the nation".

New Delhi

Distressed at the induction of "tainted" Members of Parliament into the Union Cabinet, Lok Sevak Sangh — affiliated to the Servants of the People Society founded by Lala Lajpat Rai in 1921 and now a sister organisation of Transparency International — has shot off a letter to the Prime Minister asking for speedy trials of such ministers.

And they pin their hope on a single postcard — signed by Dr. Manmohan Singh himself during a campaign launched by the organisation a couple of years ago — that shows his commitment to the cause. He was just a Rajya Sabha Member then.

"To keep saying that a man is innocent until proven guilty and then allow the accused to go on delaying the proceedings is not right. These cases have been carrying on for years and the criminal justice system in the country is collapsing. As a responsible government, we hope they will take up this matter seriously," said the working chairman of the Lok Sevak Sangh, S.D. Sharma, a freedom fighter who participated in the "Quit India Movement" in 1942.

Quoting the Common Minimum Programme adopted by the United Progressive Alliance, the letter questions: "How can you provide a government that is corruption free so long as you have tainted ministers in your Cabinet?" While acknowledging the compulsions of a coalition government, the letter further states: "When you know that the dishonest, defendant and the guilty have a vested interest in prolonging the judicial proceedings for years and when the criminal justice system in our country is in a state of collapse, do you really believe that the CBI or any other investigators or law court on its own can ever proceed with the prosecution of your cabinet colleagues?"

Mr. Sharma even names some of the "tainted" ministers in his letter. "Our aim is not to embarrass the government but we want them to take up the matter. Many accused are occupying high offices. Among them are Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mohammad Taslimuddin, Jai Prakash Yadav, Shibu Soren, Regupathy S. and P.C. Gupta," alleges Mr. Sharma.

As "remedial action", the organisation has asked for the immediate enactment of Lok Pal Legislation during the forthcoming budget session of Parliament and referring the cases against the "tainted" ministers and MP’s to the three-member Lok Pal panel. The letter further states that "if the Lok Pal finding is that a particular tainted Minister is guilty, please drop him forthwith and ask your coalition partner to propose a better substitute". Else they have suggested the formation of a special court or any other method that would be speedy and effective.

"A couple of years ago we carried out a campaign and one of the respondents was Dr. Singh. In the postcard that he sent to us, among other items he had ticked marked the option for a speedy trial of erring politician. So we know that he is committed. But if this does not work, we will try all other methods of legal and constitutional remedies. We will go forward with a writ petition if the need arises. But if nothing else works, then we will opt for the method taught to us by the Father of our Nation, that of Satyagraha. But that is the last resort," said this 86-year-old man.

See online : The Hindu


in The Hindu, Sunday, July 04, 2004.

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