Public prosecutors like Preet Bharara need of the hour
Two Indian Americans were at the centre of the just-concluded insider trading trial in the United States. Still IIT Delhi alumnus and former McKinsey chief executive Rajat Gupta may well be ruing the fact that Preet Bharara, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, was the one gunning for him.
This is because as many as 60 persons against whom the latter has brought similar charges till date were either convicted or the accused themselves pleaded guilty. Bharara has not just been hauling up errant Wall Street executives in the past four years, he has led a crackdown on organised crime and narcotics too.
Thanks to the efforts of the Ferozepur-born prosecutor, Faisal Shazad hailing from Pakistan was sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to set off a car bomb in New York's Times Square on May 1, 2010. Bharara also ensured that Al-Qaeda conspirator Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani got a life term for his role in the bombing of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Unconventional methods are the basis of his amazing success. Bharara convinced federal authorities to eavesdrop on phone conversations between those suspected of sharing confidential information to outsiders. With the help of the unprecedented wiretaps, Bharara nailed quite a few stock traders who were giving each other illegal tips.
Gupta's business partner Raj Rajaratnam was the biggest fish to land in Bharara's net until the Manhattan federal court jury delivered a verdict against the ex-Goldman Sachs director on Jun 15, 2012.
It triggered speculation that the winner of several legal battles could become a governor or even the US Attorney General in the future. Since Bharara is a member of the Democratic Party, the second possibility cannot be discounted but the 43-year-old avers that he already has the best job in the world.
Time magazine feels Bharara is "one of the 100 most influential people in the world". With humongous scams being reported almost every month, criminal lawyers in India seem to have opportunities galore to emulate him. However, they are unfortunately not able to do so mainly because our judicial system is different from the American one.
In the United States, the government offers complete support to the prosecution. Here high-level interference often impedes the same. The politician-criminal nexus invariably has a negative impact on the hearings in sensational cases. Sometimes extraneous considerations like the accused's religion/ caste tend to influence the way the case is argued before the court.
Besides, existing loopholes in the laws help most culprits to escape stringent punishment. Despite all this, some public prosecutors in this country have achieved considerable success. Ujjwal Nikam is probably the most famous among them. He hogged the headlines while handling the 1993 Bombay blasts, Gulshan Kumar murder case, Pramod Mahajan murder trial and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Bharara and Nikam are shining examples. They have reinforced the common man's belief in the very concept of justice and aided the police in preventing crime. We surely need many more of their ilk to constantly deter fraudsters and further strengthen the law enforcement mechanism.