Courting Quattrocchi

The Indian courts are getting too smart for their own good. Or plain cocky. The chief metropolitan magistrate Vinod Yadav of the Delhi court has agreed to the CBI’s plea to withdraw the prosecution against Ottavio Quattrocchi, the controversial Italian under the scanner in the Bofors kickbacks deal.
Is it shocking? No. There was no way the proceedings in this case would indict the man; he has strong political links. However, the manner in which the judgement was pronounced leaves one wondering about how the judiciary perceives such gross acts.

Instead of making the authorities answerable for the dilly-dallying that has been going on for 24 years and has cost Rs 250 crore, the judge said:

“Can we allow this hardearned money of the aam aadmi (common man) to be spent on these types of proceedings which are not going to do any good to them after almost 25 years of the so-called arms deal? The answer will be a big no.”

Your honour, with due respect, I submit:

  • How can you answer of behalf of the aam aadmi?
  • Where are the courts when such hard-earned money is wasted on other cases – will this set a precedent to close them too because the common man’s money is being used up?
  • If the question is about what good it will do to the common man, then we may ask the same about murders, rapes, corrupt deals, scams, property disputes, everything possible where except for the people involved – the criminals and the victims – the judgement may not have any tangible impact on the rest of us.
  • On what grounds can you use a term like “so-called arms deal” when Bofors is an arms deal, irrespective of the kickbacks? And weapons are used to defend the country and its citizens, isn’t it? Or do you believe it is for political purposes?
  • The case has dragged on for all these years and the CBI says it has not succeeded in extraditing Quattrocchi from Malaysia and Argentina. He was not born there or lived there in the early stages of the probe; in fact, he visited India. Where were the people in charge then? Why did the CBI spend Rs. 40 lakh on just one attempt?

It is easy to close cases, but please do not cite the aam aadmi. The person in the street probably does not fall within the tax bracket, anyway. Those who do are also paying for the upkeep of public services, and that includes the judiciary. We expect it to act. The Bofors deal was worth Rs. 64 crores but you cannot argue the quadrupled amount that the case has incurred is not worth it. Today it would be worth much more.

Besides, justice is not about the price trying a crime entails. It is about making the people involved answerable. Give us value for money, if you will.

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End Note:

There are no surprises that Col. Muammar Gaddafi would be flamboyant in the face of rebellion. It is amazing, though, that while seeking India’s support for his aggressive response to the civil war in Libya, he has told prime minister Manmohan Singh that what he is doing in his country is akin to what India is doing in Kashmir. After this, he expects support? Had there not been such a bloody trail in Libya one would find his brashness truly hilarious.

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