P. Sabitha Indra Reddy is the third Minister to be charge-sheeted by the CBI, a not-so favourable development for any Cabinet that swears by the Constitution

Even as the Kiran Kumar Reddy Government gears up to do an encore of the Dharmana episode by delaying action against Home Minister P. Sabitha Indra Reddy, named as an accused by the CBI in the Jagan assets case, disconcerting questions of morality and propriety are being raised over the continuance of the Ministers in the dock.

Familiar drama

She is the third Minister to be charge-sheeted by the CBI after Dharmana Prasada Rao and Mopidevi Venkataramana, who is already in jail, a not-so favourable development for any Cabinet that swears by the Constitution.

Three more Ministers, Ponnala Lakshmaiah, Kanna Laxminarayana and J. Geetha Reddy, are biding their time as their names too figure in the list of those against whom the Supreme Court had served notice for the issue of 26 controversial GOs which allegedly benefitted Jagan’s companies. The courts have indicted two other Ministers, K. Pardhasaradhi and R. Venkat Reddy, in cases not related to Jagan but all of them continue in office, with the powers-that-be supporting them to the hilt.

Every time a Minister is named as an accused and slapped with charges, including under Section 420 of IPC, a familiar drama unfolds. It is no different with Ms. Sabitha who is facing charges for her role as Mines Minister earlier and stuck to the last word in the script. She approaches the Chief Minister with her resignation letter. The Chief Minister holds confabulations with Ministers and senior party colleagues and promptly rejects it. A steady stream of Ministers and senior party leaders then rush to the residence of the accused colleague to comfort her and reassure her that nothing is going to happen.

Strange argument

None of these worthy Ministers, one of them holding a record for the longest tenure, counsel her to uphold morality in public life. The matter is then taken to the Congress high command where it is kept hanging. After being in limbo for a few months and some high moral posturing, the Minister is back to work, thriving on the dictum ‘public memory is short’.

It is not the question of naming a Minister as accused by ‘a mere investigative agency’, as the CBI is being described by some Ministers. What is strange is that this ‘mere agency’ went about its job on a direction by the AP High Court in a petition filed by their erstwhile colleague, P. Shankar Rao. And the agency cannot be accused of working with the agenda in this case at least, as the Congress is in power at the Centre and in Andhra Pradesh.

Moral question

What is worrisome is the phenomenon of Ministers, who take oath not to act with fear or favour, not displaying an iota of morality and dignity when faced with serious charges.

How can a Minister, accused of wrongdoing in a special CBI court in a case, continue in office and take decisions often impinging on a large section of people?

Ms. Sabitha like Mr. Prasada Rao may have acted under pressure from YSR but they should know that ignorance of law is no excuse. Ashok Chavan had to quit as Chief Minister of Maharashtra much before a CBI inquiry named him in the Adarsh Housing Society scam for recommending three names of his relatives for allotment of apartments. A. Raja had to quit as Union Telecommunications Minister in the wake of the 2G Spectrum allocation scam of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore in similar circumstances. Both had argued that they had done no wrong.

As trustees of public interest and wealth, Ministers in the Cabinet are expected to show due diligence while taking decisions and signing files. They may argue that they had stuck to the business rules and conventions but they should see whom these rules, decisions and files are benefitting.

A bit of study of who and with what motive one is pushing the files would have saved the Ministers from the ignominy they are facing now. But does anyone care?