Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swacchh Bharat (Cleanliness in India) mission is still struggling to achieve success in many parts of the nation, the Supreme Court recently commenced it’s own Swachh (cleanliness drive) mission to rid the nation’s political system of criminals. The recent SC verdict directing that political parties should state the reasons for fielding such individuals is a much welcomed gesture especially in view of the sharp increase in the number of such elected representatives with serious criminal cases including murder, rape, assault, rioting, etc. registered against them. The number of such tainted MPs and MLAs are only increasing since our political parties do not hesitate but are merrily granting party nominations to such individuals to contest the polls on account of their so called ‘winnability’ factor!
In Goa, the situation is no different! The two Lok Sabha Member of Parliaments (MPs) hailing one each from the BJP and Congress also have cases registered against them. While the case registered against the Union Ayush Minister and Union Minister of State for Defence (independent charge) Shripad Naik under Section 3 of the Goa Prevention of Defacement to Public Property Act, 1988 at the Panaji police station was closed on May 13, 2008 under the police terminology of “A’ Final Summary, a case was registered against Sardinha, a former Goa CM under Sections 120 B, 418, 420 IPC and Sections 13 (I) (d) read with 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 at the CID/Crime Branch, Dona Paula, Panaji in 2004.
Within the Goa BJP coalition government, there is the Deputy Chief Minister Chandrakant (Babu) Kavlekar. It may be recalled that the former Opposition Leader Kavlekar was being investigated by the Anti-Corruption Crime Branch for allegedly possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income before he quit the main opposition party Congress to join the ruling BJP coalition government. Not surprisingly, there is no further information as to the progress made on this investigation against the present Deputy CM Kavlekar.
Likewise, another Congress MLA who defected to BJP – the Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has also been charge sheeted in a case registered against him by the social activist Adv Aires Rodrigues. Though Rane had challenged the accusations made against him in the Bombay High Court at Goa that vide it’s order dated July 21, 2010 quashed the First Information Report (FIR) stating that Section 506 (ii) IPC (issuing threats to kill) is a non-cognisable (NC) offence in nature. The HC also issued a directive to the Old Goa Police Inspector (PI) to act accordingly with a NC case no 448/10 being registered under Section 506 IPC (issuing threats to kill) on August 7, 2010. However, the aggrieved complainant Adv Rodrigues had challenged this HC order with the matter reaching the SC but later Rane was directed by the HC to pay Rodrigues.
Another cabinet minister who was accused of corruption by the former defence minister and ex Goa chief minister late Manohar Parrikar is Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho. Besides this case being heard in the Supreme Court, there are several other cases also registered against Godinho, another legislator who had defected from the Congress. On March 19, 2008, the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC), Vasco granted ‘A’ Final Summary in the two cases registered against Godinho at the Verna and Vasco police stations in 2007. While Godinho was charge sheeted in three cases, the court discharged Godinho in a case registered against him at the CID/Crime Branch, Dona Paula, Panaji under Section 13 (2) read with 13 (I) (E) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Another case was also registered against Godinho under Sections 177, 182, 403, 463 read with 34 IPC at the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) with previous two cases registered against Godinho at the Panaji police station being transferred to the CID/Crime Branch, Dona Paula, Panaji. The alleged power scam case is pending trial in the north Goa Sessions Court, informed sources.
Similarly, cases of alleged corruption have also been registered against two former Goa CMs – present Opposition Leader Digambar Kamat and the Benaulim NCP MLA Churchill Alemao with the ‘Louis Berger’ case pending trial in the Sessions Court. Incidentally, Alemao, who has several cases registered against him, had been arrested for a smuggling case under the COFFEPOSA Act, besides the National Security Act (NSA). On October 11, 2017, the Bombay High Court at Goa quashed and set aside the Customs order holding the Alemao brothers comprising of Churchill and his younger brother, Joaquim Alemao, another former minister, guilty of smuggling gold as well as paying fines of Rs 50 lakhs and Rs 30 lakhs, respectively to the Customs department.
Recently, the Goa Lok Ayukta had directed the Goa government to register a case against the former Goa CM Laxmikant Parsekar and other government officials for irregularities it observed in granting mining concessions to mining firms in Goa. There were six cases registered against Parsekar who was acquitted as well as discharged in the two cases registered against him at the Pernem police station on April 29, 2005 and March 25, 2005, respectively. While another case registered against Parsekar at the Pernem police station in 2006 was closed as ‘A’ Final Summary, there were two cases registered against Parsekar in 2011, besides another case registered at the Panaji police station in 2005. These cases that are either still under inquiry or pending trial urgently need to be fast tracked.
Another recent entrant into the BJP – the former minister and present Panaji BJP MLA Atanasio (Babush) Monsorrate has been charge sheeted in cases of rape, assault, rioting, etc. that are presently under trial. This resulted in the BJP High Command denying a cabinet berth to the habitual political defector Monsorrate which was instead offered to his wife, Jennifer Monsorrate, who is the present Revenue Minister although she, too, has a criminal case against her. On December 18, 2007, a criminal case was registered against the Monsorrate couple under Sections 143, 147, 323, 326, 427, 307, 120 B read with 149 IPC at the Panaji police station that was later transferred to the Special Crime Branch, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Mumbai for further investigations into the case. Sources inform that the rape case is under trial in the north Goa Sessions Court whereas the case of rioting at the Panaji police station is under trial in the HC.
Likewise, habitual political defectors such as former minister and present Cumbharjua BJP MLA Pandurang Madkaikar, Pernem BJP MLA and Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) chairman Dayanand Sopte, Speaker Rajesh Patnekar and Tivim BJP MLA Nilkanth Halarnkar also have criminal cases registered against them.
On May 1, 2007, the case registered against Madkaikar under Sections 3 and 5 of the Goa Prevention of Defacement to Public Property Act, 1988 at the Old Goa police station was closed as ‘A’ Final Summary. Similarly, two cases registered against Sopte at the Pernem police station were also closed as ‘A’ Final Summary while another case was registered against Sopte under Sections 143, 341 read with 149 IPC in 2011. However, Sopte was acquitted by the court in the case registered against him on April 26, 2004 under Sections 143, 341, 504, 506 (ii) IPC.
Interestingly, in a case registered against him way back in 1997 at the Mapusa police station under Sections 143, 147, 148, 341, 427, 323, read with 149 IPC, Halarnkar was convicted by the court and directed ‘to pay a fine of Rs 500 each and undergo imprisonment till the rising of the court.’ Another case was also registered against Halarnkar, the Curtorim Congress MLA Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco and others at the Panaji Town police station under Sections 420, 409, 120 B read with 34 IPC and Sections 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 for their alleged role in what was then termed as the ‘Mala scam.” Besides, yet another case registered against Halarnkar at the Anti-Corruption Crime Branch for the alleged Housing Board scam wherein the former Goa State Aam Admi Party (AAP) coordinator Elvis Gomes, too has been named as an accused in this case.
But it is a known fact that it is very rare that these politicians get penalised for their misdemeanours when they are in power. An exception being that of former minister and another habitual political defector, Francisco Xavier (Mickky) Pacheco convicted by the Additional Sessions Court, Margao for assaulting an electricity department junior engineer (JE) Kapil Natekar in July 2006.
Pacheco initially was awarded a sentence of one year simple imprisonment (SI) by the JMFC, Margao that was later reduced to six months SI by the Additional Sessions Court, Margao that also directed that Pacheco, who was evading arrest be immediately arrested and sent to jail. Pacheco, who was served a non bailable warrant, then surrendered and was sent to Sada jail, Vasco. He later served this jail term creating a record of being the first sitting legislator to be imprisoned during his tenure.
Pacheco was also being probed by the CID/Crime Branch for his alleged role into yet another case of ‘abetment to suicide’ initially registered against him by the then Maina Curtorim PI Siddhanth Shirodkar that was later registered as ‘murder’ on May 18, 2010 under Sections 306, 304, 201 read with 34 IPC for allegedly causing the death of a young Nadia Torrado claimed to be his ‘mistress’. Pacheco’s estranged wife, Sara, too, had filed three complaints alleging forgery and cheating against Pacheco at the Margao Town and Quepem police stations that are still being investigated by the police. Yet another complaint against Pacheco registered at the Verna police station on May 31, 2007 by a Vasco resident, Peter Luis Pereira under Sections 447, 427, 171 C, 171 F read with 34 IPC was compounded on April 22, 2010.
Interestingly, on January 17, 2012, Pacheco was charge sheeted of undertaking illegal land filling activity after the then Town Planner Rajesh Naik of the Town and Country Planning (TCP) department filing a complaint at the Colva police station under Section 17 A of the TCP Act but Pacheco was not arrested in this case. Though Pacheco was arrested by the CID/Crime Branch police in the case filed by former captain Gerald John Fernandes, then general manager (GM) of the Update R&G, Vainguinim Valley, Dona Paula, Panaji under Sections 352, 506 (ii) IPC read with 34 IPC at the Colva police station on June 20, 2009. The case was then handed over to the CID/Crime Branch, Dona Paula, Panaji for further investigations.
Though the JMFC had acquitted Pacheco and two others in one case of allegedly assaulting the casino GM, Pacheco is still under trial in another case. Besides, another complaint was filed against Pacheco for assaulting a citizen after he rode his SUV damaging the water sports equipment of the operator on the Utorda beach.
Yet another case still pending trial is pertaining to the cricket one-day international (ODI) ticket fiasco at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, Fatorda registered against the former minister and then Goa Cricket Association (GCA) president Dayanand Narvekar by the then Margao Town PI Uttam Raut Dessai under Sections 468, 471, 420 IPC at the Margao Town police station way back on April 6, 2001.
While Narvekar was discharged by the court in a complaint filed by the then PSI Hiru Kavlekar under Sections 143, 147, 148, 336 read with 149 IPC, there was another forgery case registered against Narvekar at the Mapusa police station under Sections 465, 467, 468, 471 read with 120 B IPC by a former GCA office bearer Dr Shekhar Salkar on December 23, 2010.
In his complaint, Dr Salkar accused Narvekar of having forged the birth certificate of his son, Ganeshraj so as to enable the young cricketer to play for the state cricket team in the Ranji matches.
Meanwhile, there was an investigation into the case of alleged embezzlement of an amount of Rs 48.74 crore registered against the former Quepem MLA and then chairman of the Goa State Cooperative Bank, Prakash Velip under Sections 406, 408, 409 read with 34 IPC on November 5, 2009 at the CID Economic Offences Cell, Panaji. Yet another three cases pertaining to the violent Balli riots wherein two scheduled tribe (ST) youth were killed were registered against the United Tribals Association Alliance leaders comprising of the present Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude, besides former minister Ramesh Tawadkar and Prakash Velip among others at the Cuncolim police station. This case was initially transferred to the CID/Crime Branch, Dona Paula and Agassaim police station before being handed over to the Special Crime Branch, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Mumbai for further investigations into the case.
Besides another two cases registered against Tawadakar at the Canacona police station, there was another case registered against Tawadkar under Sections 143, 341, 188 read with 149 IPC aqnd 32 of the Police Act, 1956, Section 8 (B) of the National Highway Act, 1956 at the Porvorim police station. On May 27, 2011, the then Porvorim PI D S Gad had registered a case against BJP leaders comprising of the present Speaker Rajesh Patnekar, former Goa CM Laxmikant Parsekar, former ministers Dilip Parulekar and Dayanand Mandrekar and others under Sections 143, 341 read with 149 IPC for blocking the traffic near the O’Coqueiro junction in Porvorim.
Likewise, on June 6, 2011, another two cases were registered at the Pernem and Canacona police stations, respectively against the BJP leaders sympathetic to the cause of the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) for blocking the national highway in north and south Goa during their medium of instruction (MOI) agitation against the state government giving grants to the educational institutions imparting education in the English medium.
Similarly, a case was registered against former speaker and present Himachal Pradesh Governor Rajendra Arlekar under Sections 143, 147, 341 read with 149 IPC at the Panaji police station and Section 3 of the Goa Prevention of Defacement to Public Property Act, 1988. Though Arlekar was acquitted by the JMFC, Vasco on February 28, 2011 in a case registered against Arlekar under Section 143, 341 read with 149 IPC at the Vasco police station.
On December 15, 2010, there was a criminal case registered against the former Congress MLA Agnelo Fernandes under Sections 143, 147, 148, 341, 506 (ii) read with 149 IPC for allegedly forming an unlawful assembly along with his family members and supporters, and issuing threats to kill a rival group of Calangute villagers, mostly fishermen inimical to Fernandes. But on February 10, 2012, this case was closed by the police as “C Final Summary” though another case registered against Fernandes under Section 341, 236 read with 34 IPC at the Calangute police station was transferred to the CID/Crime Branch, Dona Paula, Panaji.
Besides, the case registered against former minister Jose Philip D’Souza under Sections 143, 147, 323, 504 read with 149 IPC at the Vasco police station and two cases registered way back in 2003 against the former union law minister Adv Ramakant Khalap, there are similar cases registered against several former MLAs such as Vasudev Meng Gaonkar, Pratap Gawas, Sangeeta Parab and present Goa BJP president Sadanand Tanavade.
Not surprisingly, most criminal cases are closed with police terminology calling them “A Final” or “C Final” whereas others have been withdrawn by the state government. Thus, very few politicians have been convicted of the charges made against him/her despite the cases being charge sheeted.
Hence, there is an urgent need to appoint special fast track courts to specifically hear such cases (involving politicians) and deliver speedy prompt justice to the citizens by severely penalising the guilty politicians by ensuring their disqualification especially as the Goa Lok Ayukta has limited powers and there is no proper time span framed to complete the police investigations registered against politicians.
Earlier, during a seminar on political reforms held at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, there was an unanimous plea that candidates with criminal antecedents should be debarred from contesting the polls. Former union law minister Veerappa Moily, too, echoed these views by mooting a proposal to ban politicians charged with crimes from contesting the polls.
But such suggestions have merely remained on paper as till date, there is no seriousness amongst all the political parties be it regional or national, to seriously conduct a thorough introspection of their nominated candidates prior to the polls and debar convicted as well as charge sheeted individuals from contesting the polls on the party banner irrespective of their claims of the ‘winnability’ factor and thus, deliver relief to the beleaguered citizen.