The Supreme Court deserves praise for an observation it made this week that “nobody should expect luxury in jails.” It was responding to a complaint from the accused in a Rs 2.5crore financial fraud case that he was denied “luxury” in the jail. Clearly, criminals have begun demanding a happy-go-lucky life inside jail. Notably, over time, several relaxations had been effected in the way prisoners are treated in jail. Hand-cuffing of criminals is avoided even when they are taken out, based on a questionable Supreme Court directive. The dress codes too have changed and several criminals are produced by the police in court in colourful dresses matching celluloid glamour. Little wonder, then, that hardcore criminals coming out of jail commit more such crimes during parole or end of jail term, and show a desire to return to jail. Politicians and businessmen in jail cells are provided with ACs, fridges and more. Such facilities are provided to prove that the establishment gives due regard to human rights. In the process, national interests are compromised.

The footloose manner in which systems are subverted in this country is a matter of serious concern. Murder, per se, is not the only most abhorred among the crimes. The freewheeling loot of the exchequer, banks etc and similar financial frauds are equally reprehensible and their consequences are graver in nature in terms of the harm these cause to national well-being. That the scenario is steadily worsening is a worrisome thought. What fuels the fire is the way the justice dispensation system responds to crimes. Governments themselves are often seen to be offering a kid-glove treatment while tackling such situations. Officials engaged in massive loot of the exchequer get away with their act and with the millions they made, by serving a couple of years’ jail term.

Laws are fashioned in a weak manner to punish the guilty; and it gets unduly harsher in selective cases involving vested interests. For instance, the Kerala government promulgated law weeks ago to punish anyone who confronts health-care professionals with seven years’ jail. Yet, an official who looted crores from the exchequer might get away with his act or with fewer years of jail term. It is often that officials caught in cases of bribe-taking are restored to the service after a few months’ suspension. Many such officials laugh their way back to service as they are granted back-wages for the entire period of suspension. Governance is not simply the building of flyovers, highways or rail lines or paying salaries to employees or vigorously “producing” more laws by the hour. National well-being which includes due punishment for crime is what a good government should ensure, first and foremost.

(Corrigendum: In yesterday’s editorial, in the sentence, “How could this be allowed to happen if not through collusion?” the word collusion was misspelt as collision. The error is regretted).