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Hard Truth About Soft Prosecution
Government must shed politicisation of the police and prosecution
Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian’s statement that she was asked, soon after the NDA government came to power, to go soft in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, where the accused are members of Hindu extremist groups, points to a long-standing problem with the Indian criminal justice system: politicisation. Prosecution is not so much a professional process as a political one. Public prosecutors are, in essence, political appointees and there could be merit in the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) claim that Salian’s disclosure follows intimations, whether official or unofficial, of termination of her charge. But that, in no way, takes away from the general truth of her statement, whose specific veracity can easily be established by asking her to name the NIA functionary who made the unprofessional request.
India cannot prosper as a democracy when the rule of law is arbitrary and capricious. Investigative and prosecution agencies cannot be allowed to be influenced by the prejudices of the ruling party. This does not mean going to the extreme of demanding independence of police and prosecution. These must report and be accountable to the executive. But, in order to remain functionally autonomous, they must also testify periodically before a multiparty committee of the legislature and have a line of accountability to the Human Rights Commission as well. Such multiple lines of accountability, instead of hobbling these agencies, will actually give them functional independence. This is a key democratic reform that will vastly improve the climate of doing business in the country.
The legal machinery has certainly gone soft on all those charged with ‘encounter killings’ in Gujarat, after the change of guard at the Centre. It would be surprising if the same courtesy is not extended to those in jail while being prosecuted for terror attacks in Muslim majority areas under the inspiration of Hindu extremist ideology.
This would be most unfortunate. It would further polarise a fraught polity and deflate India’s international campaign against states that patronise terror. Systemic reform is the need of the hour.
The Indian Express
Why we must listen to Rohini Salian
Going slow on ‘Hindu terror’ is dangerous. It’s also an insult to the memory of Hemant Karkare.
Rohini Salian is a legend in the world of public prosecutors.