A former minister in Jharkhand has been sentenced to seven-year rigorous imprisonment (RI) in a corruption case. He has also been asked to either pay a fine of Rs 2 crore, or undergo one more year in jail. It’s too early, though, to say that he has been brought to justice. The case against Anosh Ekka was registered in 2008, the year in which he got out of the post of Rural Development minister. It dragged on for 11 years, through investigations also by the CBI, ED etc. The present judgment came from a special court that tried him. The case will remain pending for more years, as he has the right to go for appeal.

Justice delayed is justice denied. The biggest reason for the sharp rise in crime in this country is the wide scope for the accused to escape punishment. The corruption case against former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha carried on for decades, and the final judgment was delivered after her death in 2016. It punished her associate and closed the case against the ex-CM for the reason that she was no more. So many cases are dragging in courts for decades and the law ministry through successive governments are simply not bothered. This benefits the corrupt and the law-breakers who all get political patronage. Parliament heard a few months ago that over 3.5 crore cases were pending in Indian courts. Of them, 43 lakh cases were in high courts; and eight lakh were pending for over a decade. Little wonder, many cases end up only after the accused are dead and gone.

The corruption scenario in the country is going from bad to worse. The introduction of the three-tier panchayat raj system gave more people more positions to run government institutions and corruption travelled down to the grassroots. Taking crores in bribe is today a usual practice from village level up to the top. With governmental investigation agencies like the CBI and ED too having come under the shadow of corruption scandals, in mutual mudslinging in recent years, the system itself is losing credibility. Little said the better about the anti-corruption wings of state governments. Under the circumstances, a former minister in Jharkhand being given a punishment by a court by itself means little. Such judgments are rather aberrations. The UPA II ended up in huge scams like the CWA, Coal Scam, the 2G Spectrum Scam etc. The last word on these are not yet heard. This is the pity. Governance cannot be all drama. If so, it hurts the system of democracy itself.

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