Rule by threat

The explanations coming from both the government and the CBI about the raids conducted on DMK leader M K Stalin’s house and other places in Tamil Nadu are totally unconvincing and have made their positions more questionable. Senior government leaders have distanced themselves from the raids.

The prime minister called it ill-timed.  What he could have meant was the political timing of the CBI action. But should the CBI be worried about the political implications of its actions, if it is independent as is claimed? It is difficult to believe that the CBI went for the raids without the orders of someone in the government. The message was that any violation of the law would be tolerated if the violator was with the government and the full force of the enforcement machinery would be brought upon those whose who are against it. This strikes at the root of the rule of law. The government has always claimed that it does not use the CBI for its political purposes. But what was enacted in Tamil Nadu was the brazen use of official investigative agencies.

The raids were called off as soon as they became public. This is a greater giveaway than the raids themselves. If the government did not control the CBI, how could it order it to stop an action which the agency says it has been pursuing for some time? That amounts to interference in investigation. The charge is that Stalin and others resorted to evasion of tax to the tune of Rs 20 crore in the import of costly cars. When the raids were conducted a day after the DMK withdrew support to the government, the charge became a politically motivated one. Its validity came under a thicker cloud when the raids were called off. If the CBI, however, acted on its own to embarrass the government, that is again problematic, because the agency acted politically.

There are charges that the government has used the threat of CBI action to pressurise Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP leader Mayawati to support it. The charge would be strengthened by the CBI action against Stalin. It is a terrible situation if the government depends on the CBI for its survival rather than on its political support, policies and record of governance. The government’s credentials and the CBI’s credibility have again received a grievous knock with the flip flop in Tamil Nadu.

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