The Narendra Modi government has turned rural India and the urban poor destitute through his demonetisation measures. Meanwhile, a recent petition in Supreme Court filed by the noted activist jurist Prashant Bhushan has added a new political dimension to the extent of corruption at the level of the politicians including the Chief Ministers and the nexus between the industry people and the political parties.
Mr Bhushan’s petition was followed up by an application submitted early this week which contains details of payout to a large number of political leaders by Sahara group and the Birlas during 2012 and 2013.
The Supreme Court is yet to act on this application but the facts mentioned are related to the fight against political corruption and black money that the Supreme Court in its present mood of acting as the conscience of society due to the failure of the ruling leadership, has to give a close look at the allegations. These are related to the wider issues of corruption and black money in the economy against whom the Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims to be fighting.
According to the set of documents filed by Mr Bhushan with his application, the Sahara Group and an Aditya Birla group company allegedly made large payments to prominent BJP and Congress politicians in 2013-14 and 2012 respectively, and the recipients included many CMs including the then Gujarat CM. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat during the mentioned period. Bhushan has alleged that both the CBI and the Income Tax Department stopped the investigations as notable names were involved and they covered different political parties.
The documents recovered during the CBI raids on Sahara group in 2014 and Birlas in 2013 show that the corporates may have paid bribes running into crores to politicians in exchange for various favours which have been a common feature in Indian politics.
The documents submitted by Mr Bhushan show an entry signed by an income tax officer Ankita Pandey that on September 23, 2013, a sum of Rs. 1crore is shown against Delhi CM and Rs. 5 crores against CM, MP.
Similarly, the documents show that on October 30, 2013, a sum of Rs. 25 crores was paid to “CM Gujarat”. Further, Ram Jethmalani, senior Supreme Court lawyer got the signature of Ankita Pandey examined by the Delhi govt experts, and it was said in the laboratory report submitted on July 1, 2016, that the signature was genuine.
As regards the payments made by the Aditya Birla group, the documents show that there was an email exchange through the laptop of Subhendu Amitabh, the then executive president dated November 15, 2012, which says "Gujarat CM-25 cr (12 done-rest)".
The income tax department at that time in its report called for further investigations given "highly incriminating nature of transactions” but this was not pursued due to pressure from the top. It is quite likely since many of the Congress leaders names were there, the Manmohan Singh government dumped the investigations.
But now, the Supreme Court can go into the entire issue and assess the reports of the income tax officers which are included in the application. The apex court earlier intervened on Sarada Chit fund issue since political corruption was involved. The Court committee monitored the investigations.
The allegations made by Mr Bhushan have a wider national dimension, and this includes the core issue of political corruption. This can be the right occasion to go into the roots of corruption and take action against the politicians and industry people who have been polluting the electoral politics of the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently been talking about his honesty in dealing with the black money, and he has referred to the demonetisation process as a personal decision to cleanse the economy and the society of black money. He has resorted to it without adequate preparations, and this has landed the nation in a chaos with the rural economy in tatters due to the cash crunch.
He even has the audacity to say that the poor are sleeping peacefully and the rich are having sleepless night. This sort of dramatisation and talking in ad language might have satisfied his ego, but the millions in the countryside and the urban poor and lower middle class without credit and debit cards, are feeling hopeless. Thirty people have died already as a result of the after effects of demonetization, and this figure will go up further as the woes are continuing.
Leading civil society workers, prominent individuals and the left must support this move of Prashant Bhushan and campaign that the Supreme Court should hear the petition as early as possible as the leading CMs names are involved, and this issue is linked to the present central issue of driving black money from the country’s economy.
BJP and the Congress MPs are not expected to take interest as their names might be involved. Important regional leaders also are shaky as the habit has grown in the last few decades to make money from the industry people in return for some favours. The Supreme Court has to give priority consideration to hear this petition.