Many years ago, the society used to boycott the people who have been to jail, but today they are “garlanded”, rues retired Supreme Court Judge N Santosh Hegde over this attitudinal change over time. The former Solicitor General of India cited the voting pattern in the last Assembly elections in Bihar, where Lalu Yadav-led RJD picked up the maximum number of seats.
“Lalu Prasad has been convicted for four years; he is on a bail granted by high courts. His party wins the highest number of seats in Bihar! (in the last Assembly elections)”, Hegde pointed out.
He recalled that when he was young, the society used to boycott people who have been to jail.
“Today, it’s not like that. Today, people go to jail and take a bail and come back, and there are hundreds of people waiting to garland them”, the former Karnataka Lokayukta told PTI.
“Today, most of the illegal things…sort of… encouraged by the society in which we are. Many of the illegal things have lost their punishment part of it,” he remarked, expressing anguish.
Going to jail was not the only punishment as the boycott of the society in a way segregated the bad people from the good ones at one point of time.
“Today, that character is lost in the society which is causing this major, major problem of sort of encouraging people to become richer faster, get into power faster without even following the rules laid down for that,” Hegde said.
Underlining the need to improve the “very, very poor” conviction rates, Hegde said they are hardly 25-30 per cent in prevention of corruption act cases.
“Lalu was charge-sheeted in 1996, convicted for the first time in 2014. Now, he has gone to the High Court, it may take ten years in the High Court and then go to the Supreme Court. Will he be convicted at all? Except going in (to jail) for a while till they get bail. It’s not the only case (it has happened in cases involving others).
“That kind of things (poor conviction rates) takes away the fear of conviction,” Hegde felt.
He welcomed the government’s move to set up at least 12 special courts to decide cases involving politicians as accused.
“It’s a very good idea, because we cannot afford to have people with criminal charges hanging on their heads to be in power, because otherwise it will send a wrong message to the society that even if you commit a crime, there is nothing wrong with that,” Hegde said.
“We got to find a system by which, as is now being contemplated (the 12 special courts), to have a quick justice delivery system regarding a part of the society ie, those who are part of the political system in this country.
“Also, you got to change the procedural rules in terms of grant of adjournments and make it almost time-bound disposal of cases. If need be, have more judges, you can have special courts, retired judges being available to dispose of cases, but infrastructure is another major problem. Very unfortunately, people in power never thought of improving the judicial system,” Hegde added.