Politics Holds Key to Combat CorruptionET editorial The Karnataka High Court verdict setting aside former and soon-to-be Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa's conviction by a trial court is good advertisement for her lawyers, but poor publicity for India's legal system. The court has gone by the fundamental principle that the burden of proving crime beyond doubt rests on the prosecution. It is not the responsibility of the accused to prove his or her innocence. So long as the accused can raise reasonable doubt about the veracity of the prosecution's claims, they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. Which is what Jayalalithaa has benefited from.The prosecution, finds the court, has, in the present case, made the fundamental mistake of not taking into account loans obtained by the accused to finance acquisition of the assets that are deemed excessive, besides resting on assumptions and estimations as to the costs incurred by the accused. Jayalalithaa's defence derives considerable strength from the fact that she had filed income-tax returns, even if belatedly , and these had been settled, even if after compounding. It is, however, telling that the Tamil Nadu political leader's defence argued that gifts of gold and silver to political leaders are not illegal.The prolonged prosecution, relating to her term as chief minister over 1991-96, and its eventual failure serve to show, besides procedural inefficiency , the futility of seeking purely legal remedies to corruption. In India, the roots of corruption lie in how politics is financed. Unless political funding gets institutionalised and political expenditure routinely audited on a real-time basis, corruption cannot be rooted out. Shortcomings in democratic politics have to be made good in the realm of politics itself. This is hard work, no doubt, but there is no route to better politics outside politics.
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