As demands for transparency and accountability gain ground amongst the general public in India, news of completion of the formidable task of compiling and framing the charges against the scamster-in-chief and the head organiser of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, Suresh Kalmadi, has come as a breath of fresh air. Needless to say that it is a commendable achievement on the part of the Special CBI Judge Ravinder Kaur, who framed the charges under Indian Penal Code as well as the Prevention of Corruption Act against the former Indian Olympics Association chief, and his partner in crime, the CWG Organising Committee Secretary General Lalit Bhanot. Kalmadi and Bhanot were the architects of the CWG Timing Scoring and Results Equipment scam that awarded illegal contracts to a Swiss firm at inflated rates, causing a loss of over Rs. 90 crore to the exchequer. In a country where cricket is considered a religion, and which is just starting to take its culture of sports seriously, corruption of this magnitude could have easily nipped the development in its bud. Fortunately, the charges against Kalmadi are both comprehensive and accurate. In addition to charges of cheating (Section 420) and criminal conspiracy (Section 120B), Kalmadi has also been accused, under the Indian Penal Code, of destruction of evidence (Section 201), forgery (Sections 467, 468 and 471), criminal intimidation (Section 506). Besides, he also stands accused of criminal misconduct by a public servant under Sections 13(1)(d) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The trial, which will commence from 20 February, will be fast-tracked with four hearings per week.
The trial of Suresh Kalmadi, along with the nine other co-accused (including the CWG Organising Committee Director General VK Verma, Director General (Procurement) Surjit Lal, Joint Director General (Sports) ASV Prasad and Treasurer M Jayachandran) must restore the health of the dwindling faith that the Indian citizen still has in its ailing judiciary. This trial must prove to be exemplary in order to deter future organisers from committing such heinous crimes and breach of public trust. Because India’s aspirations for exerting soft power globally have been greatly diminished by the slew of scams and corruption cases, we must exercise vigilance and prevent the appointment of corrupt officials to positions of responsibility. Let’s hope that Kalmadi’s indictment leads to an appropriately stern sentence.