WHENEVER there are media exposures on
corruption, crime, malpractices or arms deals, the stereotype response
from the establishment is to run down the media and dub the exposures as
machinations of destabilising forces. The routine reaction of the
government is whatever has appeared in the media is not gospel. But this
observation too is not the last word of wisdom. History provides ample
evidence of this.
Parliamentary records of our country
as well as of others is replete with examples to show that
parliamentarians relying on genuine exposures made by the media bring to
light aberrations and criminalities in our political life and
administration, leading to serious actions.
During the provisional Parliament of
India in 1951, the media had exposed the corrupt practices of H.G. Mudgal,
an MP, who used to table questions in the House to suit certain
industrialists after accepting bribes from them. Relying on the exposures
by the media, an MP made a further probe and raised the issue in
Parliament. The matter was referred to a Parliamentary Committee. The
Committee further discovered that Mudgal was taking money from businessmen
to fix appointments with ministers and the worst act was on receiving
payments from industrialists and businessmen, the concerned MP, who was a
member of the select committee for the Forward Contracts Bill, used to
move amendments to the Bill desired by his patrons. On the basis of this
evidence, the Parliamentary Committee unanimously recommended Mudgal's
expulsion from Parliament. Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru moved in Lok
Sabha a resolution to expel Mudgal from Parliament. Strangely enough,
Mudgal participated in the debate On the resolution and after some time
quietly offered his resignation from Parliment to the Speaker of Lok Sabha.
Based on a media exposure, Feroz
Gandhi had raised a question in Lok Sabha in 1957 concerning the sale of
fraudulent shares to LIC by a businessman named Haridas Mundhra. Some
members of Lok Sabha had objected to Feroz Gandhi relying on press
exposures. He, however, had done substantial home work on the issue he had
raised. He told the House that as an evidence, he would be prepared to lay
on the table of the House, the confidential correspondence on the subject
between the Finance Minister and his Principal Finance Secretary. There
was a prima facia case that fraudulent shares were sold to the LIC. The
Prime Minister therefore set up a one-man commission headed by Justice
Chagla. The Commission found Mundhia guilty of selling fictitious shares
to the LIC and he was sentenced.
Import Licence Scandal, Bofors
In the 5th Lok Sabha, the work of
Parliament was held up for a considerable period. The Opposition had
demanded that the Minister for Foreign Trade L.N. Mishra should share with
the House the jottings on the confidential file on the subject of import
licence episode. However, the minister was reluctant to do so, and, the
paralysis of Parliament continued.
The then Speaker Dhillon found a way
out. He ruled that the concerned minister should come to the speaker's
chamber and share with all the leaders of the Parliamentary parties, the
jottings on the file. When that was done the culprit was found.
Unfortunately, thin a few weeks after this incident, the minister was
killed in a bomb explosion. But prior to that the veracity of the
exposures in the media was established beyond doubt.
The Bofors gun figured for the first
time in the national dailies on April 17, 1987 when a sensational Swedish
Radio broadcast gave the explosive information that M/s Bofors of Sweden
had given a bribe of Rs 64 crore to the middleman in the form of
commission to secure the Rs 1700-crore gun contract from India.
Corroborative evidence started surfacing through prominent newspapers. The
breakthrough came when Chitra Subramaniam Geneva-based journalist,
published sensitive documents in The Hindu giving decisive evidence
about bribes paid in the deal. The Swedish Audit Bureau's report was the
last straw on the camel's back. The Bofors issue led to the defeat of the