Wednesday, May 09, 2007

With great power comes great responsibility

From the Editorial of The Hindu 09 May 2007

However, the order of a local court asking the police to register a case against the Minister on the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder is another instance of misplaced judicial activism. The Minister has been named as the seventh accused in the case filed on the orders of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate S. Gopalakrishnan. Others named as accused include doctors, nursing superintendents, and a labour room cleaner. Ministers and administrators must certainly be held accountable but little is achieved by pinning over-the-top charges against them before the investigation is complete. On the same principle, will a Railway Minister be prosecuted for culpable homicide not amounting to murder when there is a train accident causing multiple deaths? Or a Prime Minister or Defence Minister for a military operation gone wrong? Or a Chief Minister or Home Minister for fake encounter killings by the police? What is needed is exemplary action that addresses the issues at stake, including issues of legal culpability — not a witch-hunt.
Hmm.. I wonder if the Editorial team at The Hindu looked at this judgement delivered on the 19th of April 2007.
The Supreme Court has ruled that top rung officials like chairpersons, managing directors and directors of a firm can be held liable for criminal prosecution if a cheque issued by their company bounces at the bank.
The burden of proving that they were actually not in charge of the company at the time when the cheque was issued would rest on the officials, a bench of Justices Tarun Chatterjee and P K Balasubramanyam said while upholding an appeal filed by public sector BSNL.
So if top officials of a company are responsible for what the company does, why should not the honourable minister be held accountable for his/her department. If one wants to enjoy ministerial perks, one better be prepared for being accountable for one's actions/inactions while holding that office.

To take the editorial's argument forward, does this mean that The Hindu feels that we should absolve Warren Andersen of culpable homicide in Bhopal Gas case? After all the poor guy was only the Chairman of the holding company, sitting thousands of miles away, and many levels of hierarchy away from the scene of the action.

Perhaps Hindu in its urge to rush in and defend a member of the party it supports, forgot to think through the whole issue. It should remember that with great power comes great responsibility. If Ministers can't handle the responsibility they should not hanker for the power.

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