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Corruption is the mother of all laws

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Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
The author is practicing advocate in the Madras High Court

News reports reveal that the Chief Justice of Madras High Court was engaged in brutal sharp shooting, on the corrupt underbelly in Tamil Nadu that was impacting TN’s culture. And it’s inability to exploit nature’s bounties, for the benefit of  the people. Reading it, sent one on a nostalgic trip. First, the news reports.

Describing Tamil Nadu as a gifted land with many waterbodies, Chief Justice of Madras High Court Munishwar Nath Bhandari spoke on June 15th,2022 about the wilful negligence of certain corrupt officials, who fail to take prompt action, was spoiling the resources. He made the observations while hearing a writ appeal filed by Annamalai, a resident of Vadaperumbakkam in Tiruvallur district.

The petitioner was appealing against a single judge’s order regarding the disconnection of power supply to his property, which, according to the authorities concerned, was encroached upon by a woman before it was sold to Annamalai.

Coming down heavily on the negligent officials, the Chief Justice said that they remain quiet without taking necessary action to check unbridled encroachment of waterbodies and public land in the State because they were on the payroll of land sharks.

Pointing out that he had come across the sad state of affairs of a village in Vellore where potable water was being supplied once in six days, Bhandari blamed the corrupt officials. Water shortage arises only because such corrupt officials are not acting upon waterbody encroachment, he flayed.

Now,onto the nostalgic trip. Memory takes me back to a writ petition,  we moved before the high court,  on behalf of a citizen/businessman frustrated with the ‘mamool’ that he was being pressurised to part with. Despite satisfying all the regulatory requirements, he was being harassed from not being granted the permission to expand on his business in the concerned district. He thought it was time to call the bluff , as it was getting too much to bear.

Remember what the venerable  Tanguturi t Prakasam told C Rajagopalachari , “ No matter you can take oath not to take bribes, you cannot afford not to give,  as it is impossible”. Senior Sampathkumaar moved the writ petition for grant of  permission/sanction,  as there was no impediment for grant of the same except the condition precedent by a team of corrupt officials. It was no secret in the district and the ‘team’s’ political connections were known . “Their sway was not tolerated but accepted as part of the regulatory fee structure”,  said our client. But he decided on this occasion that he must make bold to take  on the ‘team’.

My senior thought it fit to meet the judge in his chamber,  before the cause was listed before him. He was a wonderful judge. Ever pleasant and never ruffled. He enjoyed the hearings and it was a pleasure to appear before him. Win or lose,  the experience was pleasant. No crown on cranium Justice. He never proclaimed  his honesty or integrity in public.For  it was a known and given.

Judge heard Sampathkumaar for a while. Took the names of the ‘members of the team’ and asked us to wait for a while before we moved the writ petition. A couple of days later, Judge gave the go ahead to get the cause listed. When the writ petition was taken up, he called the government advocate in and gave him a slip of paper and some instructions.

Two days later the Writ Petition was listed as Item No.1. The government advocate introduced a few officials. Our client identified them as the captain and influential members of the team. Judge, “Captain, I come from the neighbouring district. I requested my father, a retired advocate and a respectable citizen (not an oxymoron then), to enquire on the environment in the district. My father is very old but has his ears to the ground. So don’t play any tricks.

My father tells me that nothing moves from the tables without greasing the team’s palms. And of late, the rates have escalated due to inflation. On behalf of the petitioner, may  I humbly request your team to make an exception on this occasion. And please accept the normal ‘fee’ you charge and and give the sanction.It will help the industry on which several families are dependent. You can make up your loss elsewhere”.

No one except our client, us, the government advocate and the ‘team’, understood the underlying message.On information,  the advocate general came rushing. Not wasting any time,  he apologised to the judge. He submitted, “ Mi Lord, I have been appraised of the status. You can record my statement that sanction will be accorded and order handed over to the petitioner in court on Monday”.

Judge,” AG, I appreciate your gesture. I never summoned your presence. My worry was that on this occasion the ‘team’ may be forced/condescend  to yield. But on the ground, in the district, they may take it out on the petitioner as he would have to face them on a daily basis. Neither you nor I or any court can assure the petitioner peace on the ground, notwithstanding the sanction coming.

Only the ‘team’ can give that guarantee. And for that they cannot and will not offer it unless they get their pound of flesh. It has become an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a disease. The ‘Team’ is blameless. They suffer from the Virus. Vitamin M is the only Vaccine. To treat the ‘Team’, an agreed payment is a must. Captain, please tell the AG and the court whether we can record his submission and you are agreeable for the same”.

The captain and his Team were squirming. They had nothing to say. The AG said, “ Milord, I am ashamed. Your lordship has made it seem to casual. I am sorry”. “AG, we can solve the problem by having a formal list of rates outside the government offices. As part of the fee structure and an escalation clause periodically. My father told me that he was proud that his son was a high court judge. But he was practical enough to understand that while his son may be honest enough not to take a bribe himself, Judge’s/Court’s power and clout ended there”.

On Monday morning, the order signed by the Team captain himself, was handed over to our client in Court. The case was closed recording the same.

(Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan – author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

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Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
The author is practicing advocate in the Madras High Court
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