politicians are trying to convince the country's voters what many have
believed all along -- that elected officials are not public servants.
In a bid to protect themselves from zealous
anti-corruption investigators, India's members of Parliament and state
legislators are arguing that they cannot be considered public servants and
should be immune from prosecution under a 1949 anti-corruption act.
In a rare moment of political consensus, legislators of
all political hues -- from right-wing Hindu nationalists to Marxist
Leninists -- have banded together to lobby on the issue.
The 1949 Prevention of Corruption Act empowers police to
investigate and criminally prosecute public servants for graft during
their tenure in office.
Elected officials have traditionally been include in
India has no other law under which elected officials can
be prosecuted for crimes committed while they were in office.
Many Indians, who view politicians as lazy, arrogant,
and a drain on public funds, say politicians are trying to use
technicalities to escape liability for their behavior.
"They are just a bunch of thieves saying give us a
license to loot," attorney Sriprakash Kandpal said. "They want
an escape route."
Lawmakers are also trying to amend the anti-corruption
act to excuse past crimes, which would let dozens of senior politicians
now facing criminal corruption charges off the hook.
Reports in The Times of India say the proposed amendment
is supported by strange bedfellows: Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, of the
center- left United Front coalition, and former prime ministers Atal
Behari Vajpayee, of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.
India's political elite have been rocked by a series of
scandals over the last year.
Former Indian prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao stands
charged in three cases of corruption, bribery and forgery. A number of
other high profile politicians from all major parties are also facing
investigations for dubious deals made while they were in public office.