The special court’s verdict sentencing Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa as well as her aides and relatives for disproportionate assets is a landmark judgment, especially in a country where corruption has practically come to be a way of life.
Jayalalithaa is the first sitting chief minister to be convicted, and this itself is a signal that power cannot protect forever.
Despite encouraging SMSs from the Anti-Corruption Bureau, television programmes, news reports and analyses, and ways and means suggested to counter corruption, not everyone believes that it can be wiped out. Some feel it should start with the man on the ground, while others think it has to be tackled from the top. Most agree that everyone, from the big boss to the peon in the corridor, gets their palms greased at some point.
It is infuriating for us as tax-payers to see government officials and employees, already paid to do their jobs, expecting and demanding additional under-the-table payment.
The alternative for us is an endless wait and repeated trips to the office in question. It is to avoid such frustration that those of us who pay bribes, do so. Jayalalithaa’s case, of course, is an example of money-gathering at the highest level and in huge amounts. The few hundreds that the average citizen sees crossing palms can’t hold a candle to the R66.6 crore in this case. But it is still a case of ill-gotten gains, and still sends out a clear message that no one is above the law.
Speed it up
However, the case has dragged on for some 18 years, and this is a bit of a dampener. The chief obstacle for petitioners is that cases take inordinately long to be settled, and this sometimes deters people from seeking justice at all.
Hopefully, though, Justice John D’Cunha’s verdict will encourage more courts to decide, firmly and fearlessly, in cases of corruption no matter how influential the accused.