How Should Netas Deal With Kangaroo Court Like Situations Against Corrupt Officials?

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Bhubaneswar: India, a county that got independence from the British Raj largely due to the nation-wide non-violent resistance, has ironically become the hotbed of brutality and fury. And sadly, this roughness comes from the hands of the politicians, who are the lawmakers of the country and State.

In Odisha, newly-elected Patnagarh MLA Saroj Meher has stirred controversy after a video went viral of him forcing a Junior Engineer of Public Works Department to do sit-ups in front of the locals after an allegedly low quality in road construction. However, this is not an isolated case of brutality by politicians.

In November 2018, BJP leader Manish Kumar was caught slapping a police sub-inspector multiple times and hurling abuses at him in Meerut. Similarly, a BJP leader Rajdhani Yadav got into an argument with a transport officer over the removal of a nameplate from his personal car. In 2017, Congress MLA Asha Kumari was spotted slapping a woman constable, who was trying to stop her from entering into a Rahul Gandhi event in Shimla. Suresh Lad, NCP MLA from Karjat in Raigad district (Maharashtra), in 2016 slapped a deputy collector and an employee of a private firm over issues of land acquisition. In 2013, a group of MLAs beat up a policeman for allegedly misbehaving with fellow legislator.

Intelligentsia say that ‘Netas’ (politicians) attacking officers could be due to two plausible reasons-1) power-hungry politicians refusing to follow rules/orders, acting according to their own whims and fancies and assaulting officials who try to teach them the right way. Most cases fall under this category and are needed to be dealt with an iron fist.

The second and rarer situation is when public is furious on officials due to negligence in civil duties and local politicians take matter into their hands and rough up the officials. The recent case in Odisha comes under this type. “This calls for sensitive dealing of situation as three parties are in stake here-the public, the civil servant and the lawmaker. Any mistake can lead to controversy and subsequent embarrassment,” said a senior journalist.

In this context, senior journalist and political observer Rabi Das remarked, “This incident is extremely condemnable. The MLA should be condemned for his act. He is MLA for the first time. There is a rule of law and even the Chief Minister can’t punish one directly. It is with the judiciary or appropriate authorities.”

He explained, “Suppose the MLA found out low quality work in the road construction. A warning by the MLA will do or the Vigilance could have been asked to probe into. Can also draw the attention of the District Collector or the concerned Minister. He can also demand the erring government official’s suspension. But, making him do sit-ups and threaten him that the people will thrash is nothing but a kangaroo court.”

“Such a provision isn’t in our rule of law. Being a lawmaker and that too from the ruling party, he ought to have been well aware of this. It must be condemned. The Chief Minister must take action against him politically even though the JE’s wife has sought justice of law. It is the duty of the Chief Minister to give protection to the government officials. He should also issue notice as action must be taken against the MLA politically,” he opined.    

In his reactions, senior journalist and political analyst Prashant Patnaik said, “It isn’t the sole case in Odisha. Rather such type of incident has happened several times, like MLA barging into the office and assaulting the local government employees. Patnagarh incident is absolutely unfortunate and unwarranted.”

“The people have the right to complain against low standard work before their MLA. It doesn’t mean that the MLA would whimsically resort to punishing the JE. It’s never justified. If there is no end to such an act, it will spread like an epidemic in entire Odisha. Naveen Babu will never entertain any of his MLAs to act in such an illegal manner, I believe,” he opined.

He further opined, “When there is a complaint of low quality work executed or objectionable behavior of any government officials, it must be dealt in accordance with law laid down. Being a public representative, the MLA should rather try to pacify the public resentment.”  

First time BJD MLA Sambit Routray reacted, “Indiscipline can’t be tolerated at any cost. Mobs resort to many acts. But, it depends on our capacity to control such a situation. May be he (the Patnagarh MLA) would have taken the step to pacify the irate public. I would have rather tried to convince the people to allow me time for correction. I would have tried to avert such an untoward situation.”

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Rabi Das, Senior Journalist

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Prashant Patnaik, Senior Journalist

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Sambit Routray, MLA, BJD