Can PM Modi be Indicted in Corruption Cases Like PM Netanyahu?

Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu at the Community Reception Programme, in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 05, 2017 (file photo)
Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu at the Community Reception Programme, in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 05, 2017 (file photo)

Despite prima facie evidence against PM Modi, the Indian judiciary is not allowing even investigation to take place in different corruption cases.

By Rakesh Raman

The judiciaries work fearlessly only in true democratic nations. Israel is one of them. It was seen Thursday (November 21) when Israel’s Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu was charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.

It is the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting PM has been indicted in criminal cases including corruption and fraud. Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who was appointed by Netanyahu, announced that the decision to indict Netanyahu was inevitable and it is not a matter of politics.

The indictment came after over three years of investigations while Netanyahu claims that it is part of an “attempted coup” to overthrow him.

Despite indictment, Netanyahu has refused to step down. In Israel, a PM is not required to resign on indictment while other ministers and government officials are supposed to relinquish their positions when they are charged with a crime.

Attacking the judiciary, Netanyahu has argued that the investigations against him were not fair. In response, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Esther Hayut, has warned that Netanyahu’s attacks on the judicial system pose a danger to the functioning of the country’s democracy.

CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST PM NARENDRA MODI

If democracy can work perfectly in Israel why can’t it work in India? Answer: There is no credible political opposition in India, objective media is attacked, and courts do not work independently.

In fact, India’s PM Narendra Modi is allegedly involved in more serious cases of corruption including the Rafale deal and the Birla-Sahara corruption case.

Despite prima facie evidence against Modi, the Indian judiciary – which is working tightly under the control of the government – is not allowing even investigation to take place in different cases.

Recently, on November 14, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the review petitions in the Rafale case. It is alleged that corruption worth Rs. 30,000 crore (~ US$ 4 billion) took place in the Rafale deal which was handled by Modi in a shady manner.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the top court has in fact allowed a proper investigation into the Rafale scam. Quoting a part of the Supreme Court judgment, Rahul Gandhi said that the Supreme Court has opened a huge door into investigation of the Rafale scam. He added that now an investigation must begin immediately and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) must also be set up to probe this scam.

Similarly, the petitioners – former Indian ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan – demand a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into Rafale corruption case.

Rahul Gandhi says that if an independent inquiry is conducted into the Rafale case, Modi will be jailed. However, since the Indian courts and law-enforcement agencies do not work honestly, Modi is evading prosecution and arrest.

When Modi is asked about his involvement in the Rafale scandal, instead of addressing specific queries he starts accusing Rahul Gandhi’s father and a former PM Rajiv Gandhi who had died in 1991. If Modi believes that he is clean, he should appear in legal public hearings which should be live-streamed.

DEMOCRACY AND GLOBAL CORRUPTION CASES

Most people believe that India’s neighboring country Pakistan is a true democracy where the Supreme Court of Pakistan had removed PM Nawaz Sharif from office on corruption charges and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

On November 19, however, the Lahore High Court allowed Sharif to travel abroad for 4 weeks for medical treatment. Strangely, most politicians frequently fall sick in jails.

Pakistan is not the only country that deals with corruption sternly. Operation Car Wash, for example, is an ongoing criminal investigation being carried out by the Federal Police of Brazil, Curitiba Branch, to probe the largest corruption scandal in the history of Latin America.

The President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) was sentenced to 12 years in prison and jailed in April 2018 on charges of money laundering and passive corruption. He is the first President of Brazil who was arrested for corruption. On November 8, under the court decision, Lula was released after spending 580 days in prison.

In the latest example of political corruption, the U.S. President Donald Trump is currently facing an impeachment inquiry in a Ukraine bribery case. This case of impeachment shows that the U.S. has robust judicial and democratic systems which can prosecute even a sitting president. It is expected that Trump will resign before his impeachment.

Also, in 2015 Lee Wan-koo, prime minister of South Korea, resigned after being embroiled in a corruption scandal when his name appeared in a suicide note of a construction tycoon who accused the PM of receiving bribe from him. Lee Wan-koo initially dismissed the charges and refused to vacate his position. However, he later apologized for the wrongdoing and resigned.

Similarly, it was expected that Modi would resign from his PM position because he is not able to defend his case honestly in courts. But he didn’t resign. Modi and his colleagues have been offering baseless arguments about the Rafale deal, but they could never present facts that could absolve Modi of the crime.

As Modi and his party BJP have won the Lok Sabha election again in 2019, the Rafale corruption case is being mercilessly hushed up, giving a false opportunity to Modi to claim that he has been fully exonerated.

This article will also be published in The Integrity Bulletin that covers international corruption cases.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications on different subjects.

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Rakesh Raman