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Restoring faith in rule of law

The trial court order in the teacher recruitment scam in Haryana could not have come at a more appropriate time. It’s not often that the former chief minister of a state gets hauled up on corruption charges and is put behind the bars. This probably would be the first time that a former chief minister of a prominent state has actually got convicted on charges of corruption. Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Om Prakash Chautala, his MLA son Ajay Chautala and several bureaucrats among others were convicted by a CBI court on Wednesday in a decade-old case of corruption involving the recruitment of teachers by the primary education department of the state government.

Though there are instances of former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, current Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha and former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa too being arrested on corruption charges, they have not been convicted. Another former chief minister Madhu Koda of Jharkhand is still cooling his heels behind bars. Prominent politician from North-East, Gegong Apang, was arrested on corruption charges soon after he demitted office as chief minister of Arunanchal Pradesh.

Chautala’s case is different as the charges levelled against him have been upheld by the court whereas in the case of his peers either the matter is still pending before the court or they have been acquitted. Conviction in the case, depending on the quantum of punishment, would make Chautala and his son Ajay ineligible for contesting future elections under the Representation of People’s Act. With polls in Haryana due in 2014, this would be a big setback for his party the INLD, which is the principal opposition in the state.

More than the quantum of sentence, it’s the message which such conviction sends that is important. It clearly indicates that law is above all. While this dictum always existed in words, now we can see it in spirit too. It’s also an indicator that our democratic roots are getting deeper and stronger and reiterates the line that our existing institutions are capable of bringing the corrupt to the book.

Chautala’s conviction would prove to be a milestone in our nation’s political and legal history. The sentence in the matter would go a long way in restoring the faith of the citizens in the democratic institutions, which have been under fire for sometime now from civil society groups.
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