To describe the Delhi police's investigation into the 2008 cash-for-votes scandal as a tardy probe is much too flattering. The sorry truth is that the police have done next to nothing to show they are serious about making progress in the case, a level of inaction that smacks of the bad old political cover-up. If they seem to have been finally pressed into some action, it is thanks to the stinging rebuke delivered by the Supreme Court about the “inefficient and directionless probe” in this case. The scandal revolves round the charge that the United Progressive Alliance government, in its previous term, bribed opposition MPs to vote in its favour in a floor test that followed the withdrawal of Left support. But it will need a lot more than the arrest of Sanjeev Saxena, a close aide of former Samajwadi MP Amar Singh, and Suhail Hindustani, who allegedly liaised the attempt to buy the votes of three BJP MPs, and the move to question Mr. Amar Singh to convince the public that justice is sought to be done.

The status report filed by the Delhi police, which prompted the Supreme Court to characterise it as a “bunch of stories,” showed there was no investigation worth the name beyond a narration of facts and an examination of some witnesses. This is inexcusable in a case where much of the evidence is already in the public domain and in which what is required is a serious effort to flesh out and verify what is already known. The three BJP MPs who alleged they were bribed had waved wads of currency notes and placed them on the table of the House; a television channel had conducted a sting operation on the bribery attempt, the recordings of which were submitted to the Lok Sabha Speaker; and a parliamentary committee that went into the scam recommended a probe into the roles of some players even as it declared unconvincingly that there was insufficient evidence to proceed against some senior politicians. In March 2011, The Hindu's dramatic expose of a U.S. diplomatic cable, accessed through WikiLeaks, provided strong corroboration of dirty money being used to buy votes. In fact, this report forms the basis of the petition filed in the Supreme Court by former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh and 13 others, seeking the constitution of a special team to investigate the scam. Following the expose, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flatly denied that his party was involved in any unlawful act in connection with the confidence vote. That denial has a farcical ring to it with the Supreme Court expressing anger at the lack of progress in the case and the Delhi police claiming they are still awaiting the Union Home Ministry's clearance to interrogate a couple of MPs.

More In: Editorial | Opinion