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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 22, May 27, 2023

Enabling Selective Illegality Behind the Façade of Democratic Functioning | Arun Kumar

Sunday 28 May 2023, by Arun Kumar


Guest Editorial for Mainstream

May 27, 2023

The Supreme Court of India appointed Committee (Expert Committee (EC)) on the Adani-Hindenburg issue submitted its Report on May 9, 2023. It disappoints because it chose not to go deeper into issues that hold back the nation from achieving its full potential. It hides behind the technicality of Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) following the currently applicable rules that prevent it from investigating the real issues raised in the Hindenburg Report. Therefore it concludes that there was no regulatory failure.

However, EC has itself mentioned that rules which could have enabled SEBI to go into the real issues were changed in 2018 and 2021. These issues concern the functioning of the global financial architecture which enables the corporates to commit fraud and provides the instruments to businesses in India to hide their illegality.

The rules that could track the real owners of the funds being brought into India were deliberately changed to enable fraud to be committed with impunity. The EC consisting of corporates and financial experts who know of these matters could have exposed these mechanisms rather than hide behind the technicality of rules being followed by SEBI. They could have spelt out the mechanisms and asked the SC to direct SEBI to pursue the trail beyond where it has stopped. For the Indian agencies not to know the source of funds coming into India poses a security threat.

The rulers have created this loophole in foreign funding while stopping minor funding coming to NGOs and institutions that are doing social service and defending democratic rights on the pretext that they are indulging in anti-India activities. Academics researching India have been denied entry on this pretext. Universities that have been critics of the establishment have been emasculated. Terror financing was one of the three reasons for the drastic, draconian, and needless demonetization.

There is a pattern in all this. Behind the façade of democracy and functioning of the democratic institutions, illegality is being selectively allowed to consolidate the ruling party’s power – financial, social, and political.

Corporates funding the ruling party are allowed to commit illegality and amass wealth on an unprecedented scale. Regulatory agencies headed by chosen officers leave them alone but go after others who need to be kept under their thumb. It is only Rahul Bajaj who could dare to say that businessmen are scared. Those who could fund the opposition political parties are scared. Such a climate of fear has led to thousands of high-net-worth individuals leaving the country.

Selectivity in the application of the laws is rampant in the political realm. So, state governments of the opposition parties have been toppled and their legislators lured with money and/or threatened with indefinite arrest. The ruling party has been characterized as the washing machine.

Partisanship is evident in the social realm. The PM talks of ’beti padhao, beti bachao’ and ruling party members mete out instant justice in so-called cases of `love jehad’ and ’Romeo and Juliet’ to protect the honour of women. But, in the case of internationally renowned women wrestlers, protesting for over a month, justice against a ruling party MP has not come. There has been a selective practice of bulldozer politics and encounters in the name of instance justice.

In brief, behind the smokescreen of democracy, selective illegality is flourishing on a grand scale. This façade hides the hollowing out of democratic institutions because they are helmed by ’mitti ke madho’ who dare not stand up and be counted.

* (Author: Arun Kumar, Retired Prof of Economics JNU)

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