Vendetta politics must not derail due process

The entire episode was as ugly as it was unprecedented, and reeked of personality-ridden politics with a fair dose of revenge.

The CBI special court has granted five days of custodial interrogation of former finance minister P. Chidambaram and it is likely the questioning may go beyond just the INX Media case, which will purportedly nail him and his son Karti in a cash-for-clearances scandal. The drama of his arrest, sensational as it was, may have ended but arraignment and other matters are a long way away in proceedings that are already about 12 years old.

The process of arrest ran more like a Gestapo operation than a measured response to the peculiar circumstances arising out of the need to handling it as it relates to a person who has held high office and once headed the ministries overseeing the ED and CBI.

The sight of sleuths scaling the wall of Mr Chidambaram's home in New Delhi was straight out of pulp fiction than from a mature democracy that is 72 years old.

On his part, Mr Chidambaram, a man who had held such high offices and a lawyer of eminence, could have handled things better by making himself available to the investigators than stonewall for a bit longer than seemed necessary, maybe to try and make political capital out of events. After saying it was a fight for democracy once he surfaced in public and throwing down a challenge with regard to the particular case in which he was being sought, he holed himself up in his house, well aware that a lookout notice had been issued against him.

The entire episode was as ugly as it was unprecedented, and reeked of personality-ridden politics with a fair dose of revenge, which is thought to be best when served cold. Media attention may make things appear even more dramatic than they are. However, it is reasonable to believe the highest in the land make the most fuss when they are questioned or have to respond to queries.
The allegations against the former finance minister in the INX Media case seem to be weaker than those in many other FIPB clearances emanating from his office over the years. Also, they were engendered in an approver's statement given by a woman who is jailed on the charge of murdering her daughter and hence must be considered of only such value as that of one seeking relief. Furthermore, the judge who gave the order did so on the eve of his retirement after having sat on the verdict for a clear seven months.

The background seems to justify many of the charges the main Opposition party, the Congress, makes about this being sheer vendetta politics. That the current home minister was once arrested when he was Gujarat's minister of state for home, when Mr Chidambaram was the Union home minister, may nor may not have a bearing in this case. Nevertheless, it is far too important that due process takes precedence over such considerations and it gets to the bottom of the issue so that justice is quickly rendered.

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