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An Analysis of The Vohra Committee Report of 1993

The Vohra Committee was set up by the P.V. Narasimha Rao Government in July 1993. The Committee was headed by the former Indian Home Secretary N.N Vohra who submitted the Committee Report in October 1993. The Committee was set up in the aftermath of the Bombay Blasts in the same year.

The Committee studied the problem of the criminalisation of politics and the nexus among criminals, politicians and bureaucrats in India. The report contained several observations made by official agencies on the criminal network which was virtually running a parallel government. It also discussed criminal gangs who enjoyed the patronage of politicians from all parties and the protection of government functionaries.

It was further revealed that political leaders had become leaders of gangs which operated mafias. Over the years criminals had been elected to Local Bodies, State Legislative Assemblies and the Parliament. It is fascinating to note that only 13 pages of the report are made available to the public and the rest, undisclosed highly confidential pages have been buried deep inside the corridors of power.

One has to understand the deep meaning of criminalisation of politics in order to grasp the reasons as to why the Vohra Committee was constituted, although publicly containing only 13 pages, speaks volumes about Indian politics and how the need for change is of paramount importance. Many eminent personalities have filed petitions in Court in order to get the official copy of the Report but even the Supreme Court of India is reluctant to release the annexures of the Report to the public as it contains sensitive information that might hamper the functioning of the investigative agencies of the country.

Be that as it may, the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and criminals was, is and will always continue to be a constant nuisance to society as they are in some way or the other, dependent on each other. The answer to my preceding statement lies in the analysis that will follow in the subsequent paragraphs.

Review Of Literature
  • For the purpose of my project research, I have analyzed the Original Copy of the Vohra Report that I received under an RTI request filed by me bearing Registration Number: MHOME/R/E/21/00750 filed on 23rd February 2021.
  • Along with the Report which serves as my Primary source (for the purpose of this project), I have also briefly analyzed the case of Shri Dinesh Trivedi, M.P. & Ors v. Union of India & Ors, which entails crucial aspects as to why the report is not being made public.
  • A brief analysis of a recent judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the case of Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India, also renders justice to my research work wherein the Apex Court takes up the matter of Criminalisation of Politics in India.

Statement Of Problem
The criminalisation of politics is the harsh reality of Indian Politics and a nuisance to Indian Democracy. Disgruntled elements within the Government jeopardise the progress of governance and risk the national security of the country.

Hypothesis
The Criminal-Politician nexus has taken advantage of the weak rule of law in India and the Vohra Committee report corroborates the same.

Objectives Of Study
  • To understand as to why the Committee was setup.
  • To understand the criminal-politician-bureaucrat nexus.
  • To find out as to why many annexures related to the report remain confidential.
Research Questions
  • Is there more than what meets the eye, with respect to the Vohra Committee Report?
  • Why have many annexures and memorials remained confidential and not been given to the public?

Research Analysis
The following Project Work is based on the Doctrinal Method of research, firstly consisting of a brief analysis of the views of few members and invitees and finally with an overall analysis of the report. With respect to my first research question, after a partially critical yet neutral analysis of the Vohra Committee Report, the need for constituting a committee by the Government of India was necessary in order to take stock of all the criminal activities of mafias and syndicates which had links with political and bureaucratic functionaries.

The constituted committee consisted of the Home Secretary Chairman), Secretary RAW[1], DIB[2], Director CBI[3], JS(PP) MHA[4] and SS (IS & P) MHA[5]. The first meeting of the committee was held on 15th July 1993 as a consequence of the intelligence reports suggesting linkages of the Dawood Ibrahim gang with the Bombay Blasts of March 1993.

The Chairman observed that some of the Members of the Committee were hesitant to express their views and hence, he addressed individual letters to respective Members for their recommendations and suggestions. Before getting into the analysis of each Member, one can observe that every concerned organisation of the Government did provide suggestions, but at the same time passing the buck was the sort of well-played strategy adopted by the organisational HODs[6].

The Secretary RAW stated that RAW wouldnít be able to enlarge its field activities abroad and as such only dealt with collection of various types of intelligence. Be that as it may, it only dealt with narco-terrorism, arms and explosives smuggling into the country and didnít monitor criminals based abroad. The suggestion of setting up of a nodal agency was also made.

The CBI Director provided an analysis of the nexus of the Bombay Police with the Underworld based on a CBI report of 1986. He explained as to how it all started with petty crimes involving gambling, illicit distillation and prostitution in the bigger cities and smuggling of imported goods in the port cities.

The crimes then gradually turned towards drug trafficking and narcotics along with income from real estate by virtue of extortion. Apart from the various recommendations made by the Director, he also pointed out as to how money power was used to make connections with politicians and bureaucrats, which in turn moved on to muscle power which was used by politicians, for the purpose of elections. He also stated as to how Iqbal Mirchi gained a lot of political patronage in the city of Bombay (presently Mumbai).

One can observe that this is where the nexus began. Politically backed criminal syndicates have muscle men in almost each and every town in the country. On top of that, the current judicial system and the laws with respect to Economic Offences have been strengthened to a certain extent, but it wasnít so in 1993 when the Committee was constituted.

The suggestions and views of the Director of IB were almost similar to that of the RAW Secretary and CBI Director. He focused on providing more protection to officers so that they could function without fear. He also pointed out that there was no central agency involved with compiling intelligence from various departments and therefore a lot of information got lost in the bargain.

The Revenue Secretary, although not a Member of the Committee, was invited to give his inputs being the administrative head of CBEC[1], CBDT[2], CEIB[3], ED[4] and NCB[5]. The functions of each organisation were elucidated upon along with the problems faced by the field officers.

Finally, it was recommended that a Nodal Agency be set up under the DIB and that would be a part of a Top Secret Cell which would be headed by the Home Secretary himself. This was done in order to gather intelligence from various organisations in order to streamline the follow-up process along with quick action on inputs and linkages. The Chairman prepared only three copies of the report out of which one remained with him and the other two were given to MoS (IS)[1] and the HM[2].

The 13 Page Report was submitted on 5th October 1993 along with annexures spanning over 100 pages, out of which only the Report has been made public as the annexures contain highly sensitive information about some very senior politicians and bureaucrats and their links with the Underworld. The Report was tabled in Parliament on 1st August 1995 and a Nodal Agency was created on 2nd August 1995.

One would observe that the Report was submitted within a span of three months from the date of its establishment, which suggests that it was carried out in a haste. The Report being tabled in Parliament in 1995 for the first and last time, became a widely debated topic. The very same month Dinesh Trivedi, an MP[3] of the Rajya Sabha from the Janata Dal, (who later shifted to the AITMC[4] and most recently to the BJP[5]) submitted a representation to the HM[6], seeking that the Report be made public along with the annexures containing the names of senior party leaders linked with the Report.

Mr.Trivedi didnít receive a satisfactory response from the HM and termed the Report as Baseless. Thereafter, he along with two other NGOs[7] filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India which came to be known as Shri Dinesh Trivedi, M.P. & Ors v. Union of India & Ors [8].

On 5th January 1996, the Cabinet Secretary of India was appointed as the Chairman of the Nodal Agency alongside the Home Secretary and others as its members. Thereafter on 13th October 1996, the Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India admitted the writ petition and directed the Government of India to present the authenticated version of the Report before the Court along with the follow-up measures initiated as per the recommendations of the Report. N.N.Vohra in his affidavit stated that the Report was indeed authentic and he did not deem it fit to attach the annexures to the Report as the Report was only for summary purposes. The Supreme Court of India disposed of the writ petition and ordered in favour of the Union of India with recommendations of its own as it stated that releasing details of the Report to the public would be a threat to national security.

Criminalisation of Politics refers to the rising participation of criminals in the electoral process and their selection as elected representatives of the people. The same events take place during elections every year. Money-power, muscle-power, you name the power, they have it all. This involves bureaucrats as well.

This is all due to poor investigation of cases along with massive judicial delays over the years. The Vohra Committee Report corroborates the same with all the more problems that each investigative agency faces.

Iqbal Mirchi was the henchman of Dawood Ibrahim and had acquired property worth crores in the city of Bombay. This couldnít have been done had it not been the outside support of politicians, police and bureaucrats. The annexures contain the name of the politicians involved with Mirchi and the Bombay Blasts of 1993.

It is an open secret but nobody talks about it. These politicians[1] include the Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra and also the Former MoS for Civil Aviation. Dawood Ibrahim funded these politicians over the years and they kept on shielding him from any stringent action from the governmentís side.

The Vohra Report outlined the views of the Members but the most important input was that of the Revenue Secretary and his views on liquidating linkages involving crime syndicates by the way of mass prosecution of offenders without the fear of pressure from political bosses.

This was also stated by Dinesh Trivedi in his writ petition but the Court didnít approve of the same, for the very reason that certain individuals involved with the mafias included high ranking politicians and bureaucrats and hence prosecution sanction would be required from the competent authorities to investigate these officials. It is fascinating yet concerning to note that few of the politicians involved with the mafia were competent authorities themselves and hence one could and would realize as to how grave the situation was back then.

The Report was quite comprehensive and clear about the mafias and crime syndicates that controlled Bombay back then. Various investigative, intelligence and enforcement agencies didnít like to pass on intelligence to their counterpart organisations for the fear of sabotage of serving agents and informants. The same is practiced even today. The syndicate today is not as powerful as it was in the 1990s because of the streamlined and coordinated functioning between intelligence agencies.

Customs and Excise officials posted at the airports and docks were hand in glove with these underworld dons. The local police also played a vital role in allowing the same. Back in the day, the state police used to provide security cover inside and outside airports. Today, we see officers of the CISF[1] manning the posts at airports and that is why the corruption rates and smuggling of arms and explosives have drastically reduced post 1990ís.

Be that as it may, the Report has played a major role in bringing effective changes within the government machinery followed by the case of Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India[1], wherein the Court issued the following directions:
  1. Candidates must fill up forms containing all particulars
  2. In the said forms, criminal antecedents to be stated in bold.
  3. Candidates must inform the concerned political party of pending criminal cases against them.
  4. Concerned political party to put up such criminal antecedents of candidates on party website.
  5. Wide publicity by both candidates and parties in press and media of the criminal antecedents. Wide publication meaning at least thrice after filing of nominations.
Although the Court stated that it didnít have the powers to disqualify candidates with criminal charges, last year Justice Nariman ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of candidates contesting for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections within 48 hours of selection. Also, a compliance report had to be submitted to the Election Commission within 72 hours, failing which contempt of court action would be initiated.

This 2020 judgment was in regard to a contempt petition filed by Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay regarding the disregard of the 2018 judgment and it is this very same person who filed a writ petition in November 2020 seeking details of the Vohra Report and action taken over the years.

Even after seeking the Vohra Report through the RTI portal and asking for the annexures, I received a letter from the DS[1] CTCR[2] Division of MHA[3] along with the 13 pages of the Report and not once was there a mention about the annexures.

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
The Vohra Committee Report which was submitted 28 years back has always been a bone of contention for opposition parties who are in power today. There is a possibility of the Report being tabled in Parliament in their near future. Recent judgments based on the criminalisation of politics have proved to be beneficial but at the same time, eradicating the nexus between criminals, politicians and bureaucrats will be a difficult task as these are well-established syndicates.

The Nodal Agency that was set up in 1995 has remained top secret till date and works under the aegis of the Cabinet Secretary. Intelligence agencies today are working in close coordination in order to protect the national security of the country but at the same time the weak rule of law has been outplayed by the strong rule by law.

The politicians have used the bureaucrats and police to get their works done and the same has been reciprocated to these public servants in the form of post retirement constitutional posts. Even today, we see the controversy involving the Mumbai Police Commissioner and the Maharashtra Home Minister, who transferred the former as DG Homeguard due to lapses with respect to the Sachin Vaze Investigation. The Commissioner then alleged charges of extortion worth 100 crores on the part of the Minister.

Instances like this happened in the past, they are happening in the present and they will happen in the future as power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. With that being said, my overall impression of the Vohra Report is satisfactory and the views raised by its Members are indeed genuine as that is how the system functions and one cannot change it overnight. Members of the Dawood gang still control pockets of Bombay from the ISI[1] protected White House in Karachi.

The Supreme Court took a right decision in 1995 not to release the annexures as the same would create political havoc and at the same time jeopardize the cover of active field agents working on busting the Dawood gang. With the ruling dispensation at the centre, the release of the annexures seems pretty evident and a national security crisis would be all the more imminent.

My suggestions are as follows:
  • Fast track courts should be established to try politicians with criminal antecedents
  • Impartial appointments of Election Commissioners should be made.
  • Hefty penalties should be imposed upon political parties that field candidates having a criminal background.
  • Individuals who have served a jail term of more than 5 years should be banned from contesting elections
  • The Vohra Annexures should not be made public documents.
  • The Government should provide details about the follow-up action with regard to the Committee recommendations at the earliest.
Power doesnít corrupt people, people corrupt power.-William Gaddis

End-Notes
  • Inter-Services Intelligence.
  • Deputy Secretary
  • Counter Terrorism and Counter Radicalization.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 224 (India).
  • Central Industrial Security Force
  • The names will not be disclosed and can be assumed as per the readerís intellect.
  • Minister of State for Internal Security
  • Home Minister.
  • Member of Parliament.
  • All India Trinamool Congress.
  • Bhartiya Janata Party.
  • Supra note 15.
  • Non-Governmental Organizations.
  • Shri Dinesh Trivedi, M.P. & Ors v. Union of India & Ors, (1997) 4 SCC 306 (India
  • Central Board of Excise and Customs.
  • Central Board of Direct Taxes.
  • Central Economic Intelligence Bureau.
  • Enforcement Directorate.
  • Narcotics Control Bureau.
  • Research and Analysis Wing
  • Director Intelligence Bureau.
  • Central Bureau of Investigation.
  • Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs
  • Special Secretary, Internal Security and Police, Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Head of Department.

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Eshaan Luke Jacques
     
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: MA114820305952-28-0521

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