As a responsible leader, he should have abided by law of the land and set example
Dr Manoj Kumar | August 22, 2019
The arrest of Palaniappan Chidambaram, former union minister of home & finance, by the CBI, albeit after his much dramatic disappearance and reappearance, has brought an end to his long run from the arms of law.
As a finance minister, being at the other end of the law, the former minister’s voluntary disclosure scheme of 1997 gave a window from April 1, 1987 for income-tax relief to tax defaulters, a decision that led the Comptroller & Auditor General to object the scheme. All defaults made within the previous 10 years under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), Companies Act, Wealth & Income Tax Acts etc were given a cleansing window basis self-evaluation then.
Conflict of interest has never been new to Chidambaram. As finance minister, when alleged violations of holding office of profit were referred to the election commission by the then president of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Election Commission gave a clean chit on the back of an amendment brought in by the former minister to exclude holding the position of a trustee of a trust (in this case the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation) from disqualification on grounds of holding office of profit.
The former minister’s run from the arms of the law is not new, be it running away from the law or enabling himself and others to run with intelligent manoeuvres.
Not so long ago, when the CBI allegedly stumbled upon a unsigned draft copy of the status report of the agency in the 2G spectrum case from the former minister’s Jor Bagh residence, allegations by Subramaniam Swamy of impropriety, made earlier in 2012, came to the fore again. Though the Supreme Court had given a clean chit to Chidambaram then over his role in allowing low rates for the spectrum, questions over his role remain unanswered on the issue with the draft status reports in his possession. Ironically, apart from technicalities, the former minister never chose to contest the allegations of Swamy or to sue him for defamation till date.
Even in the present case of INX Media, the former minister has so far managed relief against arrest for himself as well as members of his family on 20 occasions, eight of them being for himself. Since May 2018, the Delhi high court has given him interim protection against arrest on eight occasions till the latest order this week denying a similar relief.
What ensued after that was unprecedented and unheard of. A former union home and finance minister allegedly dropping off his driver and clerk and proceeding to an unknown destination only to resurface at a press conference pleading innocence and victimisation and then locking himself up in his residence, not only leaving a hundred-odd protesters outside his residence but also to compel law enforcement officers to jump walls and arrest him in a dramatic end to the run.
As a responsible leader of eminence, the expectations from him ought to be to abide by the general discipline and law of the land and to set an example with the right conduct and action. Ill-advised as he may have been to go underground like a runaway, the encounter with law enforcement in this dramatic manner could have well been done with a voluntary submission by him to the due process of the law of the land 27 hours before his arrest. History would have written about him differently then.
Dr Kumar is the founder and managing partner of Hammurabi & Solomon Partners and a visiting fellow with the Observer Research Foundation.
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