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Jaitley slams anti-graft law: His party must reap what it sowed six years ago

Neeraj Thakur | Updated on: 6 July 2018, 18:39 IST

Union Minister Arun Jaitley is trying to convince the world that the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is an"anarchic as well as one of the most badly drafted pieces of legislation" that has stalled the economic growth of the country by scaring government officials from taking any decision.

Jaitley's comments come in the backdrop of Pune police arresting the entire top management of the Bank of Maharashtra for investigating an alleged scam of Rs 94.5 crore involving DSK Group.

In November 2015, the Modi government had also approved changes to the Prevention of Corruption Act, making it mandatory for investigating agencies to take its approval before prosecuting a government servant, unless the official has been “arrested on the spot while accepting or attempting to accept any undue advantage”.

While Jaitley seeks the support of all political parties to amend the anti-graft law, he needs to introspect how his own party benefited the most by the use of the same legislation by the central investigative agencies during UPA-2's tenure.

In 2011, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed an 80,000 pages long chargesheet in the special court against former Telecom Minister A Raja and eight others in the alleged 2G spectrum case that assumed a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.

In March 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India's draft report accused the then government of “inefficient” allocation of coal blocks between 2004—2009; resulting in an estimated windfall gains to allottees at Rs 10.7 lakh crore.

These two alleged scams eventually led to the UPA-2 government's political downfall. Both the alleged scams were based on an interpretation derived out from a Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

In 2017, the special CBI court acquitted all 18 accused including A Raja and K Kanimozhi in 2G spectrum allocation case for lack of evidence. While the court took six years to absolve all the accused of the charges of graft, the BJP was able to use the case filed under the Anti-Corruption Act as a proof of the UPA's corruption to win the Lok Sabha election of 2014.

It should be remembered that after the emergence of the alleged 2G and coal scam in the public domain, the government officials had stopped signing files on policy matters, fearing a backlash from investigative agencies.

This lead to decline in the country's growth rate, giving BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi a chance to project himself as the harbinger of prosperity.

It isn't a surprise that Manmohan Singh in 2013, in an effort to counter the allegations of higher corruption in his government had said, “In the public debate on corruption in our country, it is sometimes forgotten that economic growth also implies greater opportunity for corruption. It is important, therefore, that we look at the issue of corruption in the correct perspective. While we must maintain utmost vigilance in preventing corruption and do our utmost in ensuring transparency, accountability and probity in public life, it is also important to ensure that the work of nation building goes on at a reasonably fast pace.”

But since the BJP was eying an opportunity to come to power after a gap of 10 years, instead of listening to the appeal of Manmohan Singh, it chose to build a high decibel campaign against corruption in the country that led to vilification of every government official.

It is the specter of the same anti-corruption campaign that has come to haunt the BJP in its final year of rule at the Centre. Jaitley may cry foul and seek the Opposition's help in shooing away that specter, but those on the other end would want to see this government reap what it sowed before coming to power.


First published: 6 July 2018, 18:38 IST
Neeraj Thakur @neerajthakur2

As a financial journalist, his interface with the two dominant 'isms'- Marxism and Capitalism- has made him realise that an ideal economic order of the world would lie somewhere between the two. Associate Editor at Catch, Neeraj writes on everything related to business and the economy. He has been associated with Businessworld, DNA and Business Standard in the past. When not thinking about stories, he is busy playing with his pet dog, watching old Hindi movies or searching through the Vividh Bharti station on his Philips radio transistor.