Choutala’s conviction

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It is very difficult to tell from which period people started to join politics to amass massive wealth. But the period may be the end of eighties decade. When first time Indian people heard words such as bribery, commission in defence deals, kickbacks etc. O P Choutala is the ugliest face of corruption and bribery in Indian politics. It is not important which party he was belonging. Important is that any politicians joining  politics those days used to come with the sole aim: to extract maximum money. THE Delhi court finding former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala guilty of amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income is significant for the fact that a powerful person has been brought to book in a second criminal case, close on the heels of Chautala finishing a 10-year jail term in 2021 for corruption and abuse of position in the recruitment of teachers in Haryana. While sentencing the 87-year-old patriarch of the INLD to rigorous imprisonment and imposing a fine of Rs 50 lakh, besides ordering seizure of his properties, the court’s observation that this would send a ‘strong message to potential offenders who acquire assets by abusing their official positions’ would be mere wishful thinking unless it is backed by a strong justice delivery system. For, though many influential accused — whether politicians, businessmen or bureaucrats — are put in the dock, their conviction rate is abysmally poor. The prosecuting agencies have rarely succeeded in overcoming the common obstacles put forth in such high-profile suits, including case-delaying tactics, witnesses turning hostile or flawed evidence collection. The covert use of threats, force and money power often trump the trial as the prosecution buckles under the collective weight of staff shortage and lack of forensic and scientific leads as also the huge pendency in overburdened courts clogged with lakhs of cases. So much so that often when the verdict is delivered, decades later, justice is too late for the party concerned. The wheels of justice can move faster if investigators rely more on scientific ways of collecting proof to both nab the guilty as well as protect the victims. The agencies need to be equipped with more manpower, resources and modern tools of probing. Only assured and quick retribution can be a deterrent to crime. Improved law enforcement will also encourage more people to come forward and take on the mighty criminals. There are many more Chautalas — corrupted by power — walking in our midst who need to be put behind bars. The rise and fall of O P Choutala may be a lesson for politicians who come here to collect huge money illegally for their future. O P Chautala has been the CM of Haryana five times serving in office for as low as five days to a full-term of five years, including a five-month debut between these two extremes. He has also been a seven-time MLA. When his father Devi Lal went to Delhi as deputy PM in the Janata Dal government, it was Om Pakash Chautala who inherited the Chief Minister’s chair on December 2, 1989. He was required to win an election, and contested a by poll thrice. His rise to politics was also not free of controversies. The first by poll was countermanded following allegations of booth capturing. The second one too was cancelled because of the death of Independent candidate Amir Singh. Eventually, it was the third time from Darba Kalan in his home district that Chautala finally won. In 1990 when Justice KN Saikia Commission indicted him as an accessory to murder of his political rival Amir Singh, his party was forced to bring in another CM Banarsi Das Gupta. However, Gupta was replaced by Chautala again in around 2 months on July 2, 1990. But he was forced to quit within five days due to intense pressure from within the party. Hukam Singh took over, but he too had to make way for Chautala eight months later. This time, Chautala again stayed on as CM from March 2 till April 6, 1991, but his regime was toppled and President’s Rule was imposed. Later in 1999, Chautala, with the BJP behind him, ensured that the Bansi Lal government was brought down. He then completed his next term from July 24, 1999 till March 5, 2005. Chuautala is a face of all the evil tendencies in politics which had become rampant at that time.