Media is selective on exposing corruption
Take a column in Hindustan Times about celebrating New Year Eve at leading hotels in Delhi. Consider the rates charged for a midnight meal. At Orient Express, Taj Palace, the cost was `25,000 per couple inclusive of taxes. Thank god for that. At Amnesia, the VVIP Lounge cost `25,000 per couple. It was ‘cheaper’ at places like LAP, Parkland Exotica which charged a measly `15,000 and so all the way down the line.
WHAT is it that has gone wrong with this great country? Ministers are corrupt; politicians are blatantly corrupt, the media is showing itself to be no better. And now, we learn, even the malaise has hit the judiciary -and nobody seems to care. Charges have been levied against a retired Supreme Court Judge. Tehelka (December 18, 2010), the acme of investigative journalism, carries a story that is frightening. On November 26, two Supreme Court Judges, Markendeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra said: "We are sorry to say, but a lot of complaints are coming against certain judges of the Allahabad High Court, relating to their integrity. Some judges have their kith and kin practicing in the same court and within a few years of starting practices, the sons or relatives of the judges become multimillionaires, have huge bank balances, luxurious cars, huge houses and are enjoying a luxurious life. This is a far cry from the days when the sons and other relatives of judges could derive no benefit from their relationship and had to struggle at the Bar like any other lawyer."
According to an investigative story written by Brijesh Pandey and Kunal Majumdar, the Allahabad High Court, India’s oldest and biggest, "is awash with families of judges practicing in the same court (as the presiding judges), casting doubts over the impartiality of justice". This is a serious charge. Tehelka has gone to the extent of naming the judges whose close relatives practice under them. Thirty five judges have been named. And advocate of the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan, has been quoted as saying that "there are no rules that bar relatives of judges from practicing in the same court", though "many of them do get the advantage. The time has come for the Establishment to take a call on this. Judges should not be appointed where immediate relatives are practising. Immediate relatives mean spouse, children, brothers and sisters".
And Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General is quoted as saying: "It all depends on the integrity of a judge and lawyer. The practice has been there for some years now, but what is disturbing is the current numbers. If lawyers are getting favourable judgements repeatedly, the Bar Council must intervene. There must be peer pressure to stop this practice." Does peer pressure really help? Shouldn’t there be a law? If a judge hears a case being argued either by his father, or brother or son, sister or daughter, what fairness can one expect in the final judgement? Isn’t that for all citizens to worry about?
Tehelka’s January 11 issue is not less alarming. It says: "It’s not just BJP, Congress and JD(S)" that give prime property to people close to the party. "DMK Supremo Karunanidhi has also been handing out prime property to judges, politicians and their kids. Who’s going to rein them all in?" The trouble seems to be that Chief Ministers have "discretionary" quotas that they can allot to their favourites. And these "favourites’ can be fellow politicians, judges, bureaucrats and even journalists. Asks Tehelka: "Why should the government have the power to give coveted land to selected employees and journalists over others? Lies are perpetrated. Many bureaucrats and their relatives have been given plots or flats under the "social worker" category. Rules are violated. When will people revolt against these heinous practices and bring offending Chief Ministers to book? If one studies the current situation, the answer is Never. It is money alone that matters. How does it show?
Take a column in Hindustan Times (December 26, 2010). It is about celebrating New Year Eve at leading hotels in Delhi. Consider the rates charged for a midnight meals. At Orient Express, Taj Palace, the cost was `25,000 per couple inclusive of taxes. Thank god for that. At Amnesia, the VVIP Lounge cost `25,000 per couple. It was ‘cheaper’ at places like LAP, Parkland Exotica which charged a measly Rs 15,000 and so all the way down the line. One can be sure it was House Full everywhere? What is a `25,000 when one Minister managed to get the government lose `1,760 lakh crore? The trouble is that we are fast becoming a nation of 10 per cent wealthy people for whom money is no consideration. It is affecting our moral standards as well. Or should one be more liberal and say not ‘moral’ but cultural standards?
Look at our newspapers. More semi-nude pictures of women are published than ever and one wonders whether Debonair has taken over our dailies. One paper-should one mention names?-once carried in just one issue, as many as 19 pictures of girls in bikinis, which must be something of a record. Now the situation is getting reversed. According to DNA (December 11, 2010) "fully nude photographs of a teenage boy in a women’s magazine Grihshobha have landed the publisher in a police case. Grihashobha is a Hindi biweekly for young women that covers entertainment, fashion, celebrity gossip, lifestyle, cookery and health. In a December edition the magazine published three full nudes of a western teenager. On the photographs was a morphed image of a girl looking at the photographs. The Hindi text below said, "Earlier, nude photographs of women were in vogue. Now a photographer has organised an exhibition of 200 nudes of a teenager. However, it is not known how many women would want to solicit him." Grihashobha began publication in 1979 and is amongst the largest sold magazines in its category in India, with editions in many Indian languages. The Group also publishes Grihalakshmi and Woman’s Era.
Incidentally, the case against the journal was filed not by a woman but by a man, a lawyer, by name Manoj Jaiswal. He filed a complaint at the Worli (Mumbai) police station, submitting the purchase bill and the magazine. The Worli police have apparently filed an FIR against the magazine publisher, a Worli-based vendor and the local distributors under Section 292 and 293 of the Indian Penal Code which deal with the sale and printing of obscene books. But what is really obscene? Are pictures of scantilyclad teenagers acceptable? Just as importantly, do serious dailies of national reputation need to publish them? What sort of journalism are we practicing? Shouldn’t someone pull up editors of these dailies and tell them they are bringing disgrace to the profession? The Press Council can do nothing in such matters.