Jayalalitha gets interim bail from Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minster J Jayalalitha. Earlier, Jayalalithaa was denied bail by the Karnataka High Court. She is in jail following her conviction in a disproportionate assets case. The sentence entails a four-year sentence and a Rs100 crore fine.
Jayalalitha has been seeking bail on the grounds that she is a senior citizen, aged 66, and a woman with failing health. In its order today, the Supreme Court also suspended Jayalalitha's sentence.
The Hindustan Times newspaper reported that the Supreme Court has laid down the law such that, a convicted person can contest election if the conviction and sentence are stayed by the SC. However, her conviction has not been stayed and merely suspended.
This interim order comes with the condition that Jayalalitha must submit her paperbook (to the HC where the appeal against conviction will next be heard) required for the bail application, within two months from today.
Reports suggest that Jayalalitha, through her counsel Fali Nariman, gave various assurances to the Supreme Court, like not asking for adjournments from the HC, being confined to her house while pressing for bail and making sure her party workers do not resort to any violence in Tamil Nadu. The bail is applicable till 18 December 2014.
Vinod Rai writes about the major scams that shook the nation
Vinod Rai, the 11th and most assertive comptroller and auditor general (CAG) that India has seen, is the man behind uncovering major scams over the past few years: the 2G scam, coal block allocations, the Commonwealth Games (CWG) scam, Air India scam and so on. Rai, in his book Not Just an Accountant, asserts that after several red flags were raised, the government had a chance to alter its direction and avoid obvious malfeasance. However, it turned a blind eye and continued along the same path.
According to Rai, the scams showed astonishing mis-governance with a clean man at the top. In the chapter on the 2G saga, he points out, “Unbelievably, the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) chose to ignore the red flags of deviation from policy, and questionable facts and figures offered by the minister (A Raja, the then telecommunications minister).” Commenting on Dr Singh’s statement in January 2014 that “spectrum allocation should be transparent,” Mr Rai writes that had the PM stood by his beliefs, the fate of the UPA-2 would have been different. However, Dr Singh “engaged in a routine and ‘distanced’ handling of the entire process, in spite of the fact that the A Raja had indicated, in writing, the action he proposed to take,” Rai writes.
The PM was aware of Raja’s intentions as far back as November/December 2007, but he only ‘acknowledged’ the ‘developments’ and did not question the minister’s intentions. Rai states that, if only Dr Singh had responded differently and asked the minister not to take any action ‘till they or the GoM have discussed this’, it would have changed the course of the UPA-2.
This case was “the first in the unfolding of a series of misguided actions of a government that seemed to have forgotten its oath to preserve and protect the interests of the nation,” laments Rai.
While the government initially claimed that there was no malfeasance and the CAG had erred, Rai states, “This is a story of the misguided belief that the underlying objective of all action is to remain in power, and keep a coalition secure—the nation and its people be damned.”
Similarly, in the CWG scam, despite the detailed and obvious highlighting of flaws and irregularities, there was no credible attempt to establish accountability. “The big fish get away and only some lowly engineers and officers land up in the CBI net,” remarks Rai.
On the coal scam, Rai comments that “those entrusted with safeguarding the nation’s natural resources… allowed it to be frittered away to agencies who were neither capable of exploiting the resources or had the intent to do so.”
Another area of scam was public-private partnerships (PPPs) which are not transparent and are skewed in favour of the private party. Such deals do “not assure us that the nation’s resources are indeed being exploited in the best interest of the nation,” Rai argues.
Further, he writes about the tragic tale of civil aviation which was once the pride of the nation. In the Air India deal, he questions why Boeing (B 777) aircrafts, that were meant to fly for the next 25 years, were sold within five years of the delivery of the aircraft at one-fifth the price. This was done despite the policy-makers being aware of the fact that such a purchase would create a financial crisis for Air India.
He also laments the incapability of joint parliamentary committee (JPC) and the public accounts committee (PAC), which were to probe the suspected irregularities of the government, but could not prepare a unanimous report and present it to Parliament.
Rai is the first of Indian CAGs who will be remembered for showing us that the government and politicians can be made accountable, if statutory bodies simply do their job. In a powerful speech, at Moneylife Foundation’s third anniversary function on 15 February 2013, Rai reminded the citizens about the responsibility of ensuring good governance saying that too much is at stake for this duty to be ignored. While private institutions as well as individuals need to be accountable, Rai said that more is required of the government. He said, “Accountability becomes more important when public funds are involved. This is because public funds come from taxes, which we have to pay.
Because there is compulsion to pay, we need to know how the money is spent. This is why governments have higher accountability to its citizens.”