Corruption and Courts

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  • If there is a larger message in the Karnataka High Court’s refusal to grant bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, it is that the judiciary will treat corruption among public servants with greater seriousness.
  • In the light of Supreme Court decisions describing corruption as a violation of human rights that leads to “systematic economic crimes”, and a “serious malady undermining the very health of the polity”, the High Court has chosen to place corruption cases on a different footing altogether.
  • It cites a ruling that says a convicted public servant should be deemed to be corrupt until exonerated by the appellate court. And it also says suspension of sentence should not be an automatic event, but a relief that should be granted only if adequate grounds exist. The grant of post-conviction bail, undoubtedly, is not the same as one given in the pre-trial stage, when there is a presumption of innocence. It is in this backdrop that Justice A.V. Chandrashekara has chosen to overrule the Special Public Prosecutor’s stand that conditional bail may be granted to Ms. Jayalalithaa and others, and hold that there were no grounds for granting any relief. Ms.Jayalalithaa, who will have to move the Supreme Court for immediate relief.
  • In recent times, the apex court has removed the protection from immediate disqualification enjoyed by convicted legislators, fixed a time-limit for grant of sanction for prosecution of public servants, directed early completion of trials involving lawmakers and struck down discriminatory provisions that required government clearance for investigating cases involving bureaucrats above a certain rank. The High Court has also shown itself to be immune to the political clamour for Ms. Jayalalithaa’s release in Tamil Nadu.
  • Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, who made an earnest appeal for calm, should ensure that the limits of democratic protest are observed
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