New Delhi: Though the Pandora Papers and other such revelations as the Panama Papers, Bofors papers, and fodder scam papers are now in constant discussion, there are lakhs of such files and documents. Cases related to private sector corporate companies and NGOs are coming to the fore as part of a process of democratic transparency and right to information, to some extent. Corruption in the judicial process, scams, and frauds to the tune of crores of rupees are shocking everyone.
Apprehensions are expressed that raids and arrests have increased after Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come to power. However, the common man and the honest section of the society are happy that the wrongdoers are coming under the scanner, but a section of the working class thinks that a person can earn crores from legitimate business also, but because of a “few dirty fish”, everyone gets slandered.
The most serious and objectionable thing in our society is that when any inquiry, notice, or court case is being publicized in public forums and media, the innocent get defamed and the guilty get some punishment after years. It may be interesting for today’s readers to mention some of the old facts in this context. I started writing about the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) in 1972 as a correspondent. From its annual report, occasionally any big case would come to the fore. I used to bring out news with the help of one of my fellow journalists, and by going two or three times a month to the CBI’s office, the information officer Bhishma Pal or any senior officer used to help me bring out some news. I used to work in a news agency, and I also used to write in the country’s leading dailies or weekly magazines. At that time, it seemed that people did not have complete information about CBI. I used to write extensively on CBI for Dharmayug, the leading weekly magazine of the Times Group, and sent an interview of the first director of the institute, Devendra Sen, to the Mumbai-based editor Dharamvir Bharti. It was widely praised and it benefitted me a lot as it expanded my contacts with the CBI officials. I got opportunities to obtain first-hand information about some serious cases like the smuggling of uranium. Even then, the CBI used to have minor cases of bribery or serious murder. Devendra Sen had once advised Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to make CBI on the lines of the Federal Investigation Agency of America, it was then formed in 1963, and, gradually, he himself became the director in 1971.
Mr Sen to any other CBI director to date recognize that there are not enough investigating officers and support staff to have the same powers and facilities like the FBI. Nowadays, after the politicization of every scam, murder case, or any other matter, there is a demand for a CBI investigation, and it is accepted and further, after investigation, if there is no favourable investigation or report by the complainant or the opposing parties, the agency is accused of being biased.
Due to the hearing in the courts for months and years, the culprits get the punishment very late. The biggest proof is the fodder scam. I and my colleagues first published this scam in the Nav Bharat Times in 1990 with proof, but Lalu Yadav went to jail even after ruling Bihar for 15 years. During the last decade in CBI, allegations of political pressure and corruption have also come to the fore. On the other side, came directors like Joginder Singh, who was more transparent and started telling many stories to journalists like us. After retiring, he wrote books on Prime Ministers and other leaders in matters related to Bofors and fodder scam. However, it is no longer the only agency to investigate economic crimes. For economic offenses, the officers of Income Tax Department, Customs, Excise, Enforcement Directorate and Serious Fraud Investigation Office with little knowledge of people keep working continuously. The rights and responsibilities have increased over time, but the rules and regulations are still limited.
Complaints and serious cases have increased in most departments, the number of files has increased, digital records are increasing, but the system is old and the number of investigating officers is less. Many of the officers belong to the state police service and their service is affected by their old relations. This is the reason when a matter related to a corporate or political leader becomes public, questions arise as to why and how suddenly this matter came up. Due to the slow pace of the investigation, many serious cases lead to slow raids and delays in going to jail. Then, the court process goes on for a long time.
After the Panama Papers, the names of politicians, corporate companies, media owners, and others appeared in the Pandora Papers for depositing crores of rupees abroad through illegal ways. This work does not belong to any government agency, but after the Panama Papers became public, some rich people and their companies have come under siege due to the activeness of Indian investigative agencies. The problem for those who have kept money in foreign countries under the rules and regulations is that they get slandered because the name is tossed in the media without any reason. On the other hand, those who have embezzled crores of rupees keep turning a blind eye to the officials for years due to legal bets. In this view, the Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata offices of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, set up by the Atal government 20 years ago to investigate corporate frauds, and the CBI, have come up with a comprehensive approach to detect and punish the irregularities. And, in time, maximum priority has been given to the CBI. By reforms, expansion of machinery, and the formation of special courts, confidence can be increased to control economic crimes and strengthen the economy.
The author is editorial director of ITV Network-India News and Aaj Samaj Dainik.