Corruption, 2G drama engaged SC in 2011

New Delhi: The 2G scam and the judiciary- executive turf war over black money and SPOs engaged the Supreme Court which in 2011 also dealt a blow to the UPA government by quashing the appointment of P J Thomas as CVC whose name was recommended by a panel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The verdict declaring that the recommendation made by the high-powered committee on Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) was "non-est in law" (does not exist in law) came at a time when government was facing the heat of the apex court on the 2G scam in which the name of Home Minister P Chidambaram was also dragged.

The outcome on the appointment of Thomas, who was named in a charge sheet in a corruption case in Kerala, also brought embarrassment for Chidambaram as he was also in the three- member panel recommending the tainted IAS officer for the CVC which was opposed by the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj.

The Home Minister also had a tough time in the wake of the controversy arising out of a Finance Ministry note to the Prime Minister`s Office signed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the issue of pricing of the 2G spectrum.

The note stated that former Telecom Minister A Raja was not alone responsible for the loss in the 2G spectrum allocation and Chidambaram as finance minister in 2008 recommended the policy of "auction".

The note also gave ammunition to Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy, who is seeking prosecution of Chidambaram in the 2G scam and before the apex court reserved its order, the Centre and the CBI on their own joined hands and provided spirited defence on behalf of the Home Minister.

With corruption remaining the major concern of the apex court, the Centre found itself cornered for not making public the names of persons with black money stashed in foreign banks and goofing up on the issue of Hasan Ali Khan, the Pune stud farm owner accused in the massive money laundering case.

The issue of black money and the policy of the Centre and state governments arming tribals as special police officers (SPOs) and creating anti-vigilante groups like Salwa Judum and Koya Commandos in Chhattisgarh to counter the Maoists and Naxalites also reflected the turf war between the judiciary and the executive.

Ruling out government`s contention that judiciary was encroaching into the domain of the executive, the apex court castigated the authorities for their inaction and appointed a Special Investigation Team to probe the issue of black money.

However, the victory of the civil society was short- lived as within a fortnight, the government moved the apex court for recalling or modifying the judgement on the black money which resulted in a split verdict. The verdict will once again be re-examined by the third bench.

So was the case on the issue of SPOs in which the apex court rejected the contentions of the Centre and Chhattisgarh government and came down heavily on the practice of deploying vigilante groups like Salwa Judum in the fight against Maoists by declaring the policy as unconstitutional.

However, later the apex court modified its order to allow the use of services of SPOs in fighting outlaws in the country, except in Chhattisgarh which came out with an ordinance to absorb around 5,000 SPOs in its auxiliary force by relaxing the educational criteria.

The apex court`s zero tolerance against corruption which was manifested on the issue of CVC case, was also reflected when it dealt with the cases of corruption in judiciary with iron hand. The high-point came when it dismissed pleas of Chief Justice P D Dinakaran of the Sikkim High Court and Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court.

Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia also resorted to large scale transfer of High Court judges as fingers were raised on the credential of many working judges.

With former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan`s family members facing allegations of amassing disproportionate assets during his tenure, the apex court also agreed to hear a petition against him and allowed an advocate to file documents related to the property acquired by them.

During the year, the apex court also rebuked Delhi Police for its inaction for over three years on probe into the 2008 cash-for-vote scam, involving the alleged payment of bribes to some opposition MPs for their votes in favour of the July 2008 trust motion by the UPA-I government.

This resulted in arrests of former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and BJP leader L K Advani`s former close aide Sudheendra Kulkarni, besides two former and one sitting BJP MPs among others.

Virtually reflecting the public ire against corruption and price rise, the apex court, while continuing to tighten the screw on corruption, expressed deep anguish over the widening gulf between the rich and the poor in the country and said, in one of its orders, that there cannot be "two Indias".

Observing that no one in the country should die of hunger and malnutrition, the apex court directed the Centre to provide 50 lakh tonnes of additional food grains for distribution among people below poverty level and asked them to build sufficient night shelters to ensure that no homeless person is forced to sleep in the open in the harsh winter.