Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: The collegium system has opened the doors for many Karnans

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Supreme Court contempt order

The outrageous activities of Justice CS Karnan bring into focus the very sad affair of higher judicial appointments (“SC sentences Justice Karnan to 6 months for contempt, bars media from reporting on his judgments”). The collegium system has opened the doors for many Karnans. But the Supreme Court’s constitutional bench order militates against the fundamental principles of rule of law. The unprecedented order of the Supreme Court cannot be supported in the name of protecting the higher judiciary. People like Karnan cannot shake the confidence of the common people in the Supreme Court, but the order of the Supreme Court sentencing Karnan to six months imprisonment strikes at the root of people’s confidence. It is alarming that the apex court, not infrequently, has been showing authoritarian temper and disregard for freedom of speech and expression. Contempt power should be reviewed so that it cannot be misused further. – Purushuttam Roy Barman

Triple talaq

Faizan Mustafa has removed many misconceptions about triple talaq through this interview (“‘People will accept triple talaq out of fear of God’: Legal expert Faizan Mustafa”). Muslim personal law is not a law under Article 13 and rights violations must be addressed by the state and not private individuals are very strong arguments. The statistics are interesting. But Mustafa being a scholar is in favour of social reform. I think some advocate arguing the case needs to refer to this interview as an external aid. – Dr Vijay Oak

***

It is a correct decision by the government to raise this issue (“Supreme Court to begin hearing pleas against triple talaq, nikah halala from today”). We are saying that our Constitution is above personal laws. Hence, it is the duty of all Indians to follow it barring religion. – Dhiraj Borker

Jamia honour for Erdogan

By conferring a doctorate on Erdogan, Jamia is celebrating a regime that attacks academic freedom (“‘To honour Erdogan with a doctorate is to condone his actions’: Jamia students speak up”). – Moti Lal Raina

Trials of Bilkis Bano

I seriously do not understand if this is a story of great hope or of utter hopelessness (“Gujarat riot victim Bilkis Bano moved 20 homes in 15 years but never lost her faith in justice”)! If this is how difficult it is to get justice, I really doubt if anyone would want to have it. – Matiul Islam

Dog breeds

I read the story on how Indian indigenous dog breeds are driven to extinction because of our preference for foreign breeds (“India’s love for Labradors and German Shepherds is driving its indigenous dog breeds to extinction”). The story could have finished with ways and means for dog lovers to adopt and/or buy indigenous dog breeds. I am still clueless about how to go about finding a Jonangi or a Kombai. Would appreciate a few contact details from Soumya Rao on breeders/owners of such breeds. I will be adopting/buying a puppy soon, and would like to go for one. Incidentally, our family has had dogs since before I was born, so I am not a wannabe pet lover. – Ranajit Mukherjee

Kashmir conflict

I have lost all sympathy for Kashmiri Muslims (“‘To whom do we complain?’: Massive search operation in South Kashmir has left scars, broken windows”). They have to learn how to get along with other communities otherwise they are going to suffer the fate of Syrians caught in a civil war. The photograph of the horizontal scar on the neck clearly cannot be caused by strangulation by hand. Are the windows broken by Kashmiri stone-pelters themselves to prove they are victims? – Vishvendra

A good read

Thoroughly engrossing style of writing by Sujata Prasad (“How Sonal Mansingh ended one life and began another (and kept dancing through it all)”). It is difficult to leave the book once you start it. I did not know of the author’s writing style and would not have bought this book if I had not been cajoled into doing so by a common friend. This has been a good decision. I’m already halfway through this book and am enjoying reading it. – Arvind Arora

Adityanathspeak

This man is really, really the worst (“All of the country’s problems will end once we accept Akbar and Babar were invaders: Adityanath”)… Instead of doing his work as chief minister, this is what he says. Useless fellow. – Sayed Javedul Aslam

Tripura politics

It seems Tripura voters are going to establish a rotational government of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist party of India (Marxist) (“In Tripura, BJP-Left clashes and a retreating Trinamool mark the beginning of election season”). Just like the Kerela model. In previous years, voters elected the Congress, but they failed to set up a progressive policy. The people of Tripura want social stability, a swift and flexible government, progressive works, domination of people in the democratic system, and rule of law. If the BJP is able to set an alternative progressive government against the Communist Party of India (Marxist), they can appear alternatively every five years. – Noni Gopal

EVM tampering row

This protest is just a show to bring the Aam Aadmi Party into the limelight and childish drama to hide the corruption of Arvind Kejariwal and his government (“EVM controversy: AAP workers demonstrate outside Election Commission headquarters”). The Election Commission of India has called for an all-party conference to clear all doubts about electronic voting machines and their functions. The Aam Aadmi Party could have very well demonstrated there if electronic voting machines can be tampered with, but they chose to demonstrate it in Assembly, where they have the immunity of the House. That electronic voting machine was made by the Aam Aadmi Party, programmed by them and they themselves demonstrated the hacking of their own machine. They can show their ability to hack or tamper with electronic voting machines in front of all the political parties on May 12. – Chandrashekhar Bordekar

JNU appointment

What is wrong in appointing intellectuals from all sides to the Jawaharlal Nehru University council, unless you pronounce that Madhu Kishwar is not an intellectual but a lumpen BJP-wali (“JNU faculty ‘confused’ by pro-Modi scholar Madhu Kishwar’s appointment to Academic Council”)? Let a thousand flowers bloom, and the views of both the Left and the Right pervade JNU. It is good for the university. – R Venkat

Zakir Naik

Zakir Nail is in Malaysia with the protection of the Malaysian government (“Zakir Naik’s IRF threatened India’s security, says tribunal while upholding ban on his NGO”). He has been openly speaking ill of the Hindu religion and creating tension for Hindus. Neither politicians nor the government are addressing this issue as it appears they are in cahoots with him. I sincerely hope he is removed and jailed. I hope the Modi government will do something. – Regu

Dhoni’s form

How has Dhoni lost his credentials (“Rishabh Pant’s incredible knock raises uncomfortable questions for Mahendra Singh Dhoni”)? It is the media that is trying to make him fade away. Before writing a story, at least go through his runs in 2016. He played 14 innings and scored 660 runs at an average of about 66. Including two hundreds and three fiftys. Go through his innings before you blame him. – Jerin Manakkattu

Cartoon trouble

The cartoon by Tim Dolighan of Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is as offensive as if he were to portray a black government official hanging himself from a noose (“Sikhs in Canada want dailies to apologise for ‘insulting’ cartoon of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan”). This is utter ignorance and insensitivity from the Toronto Sun and its affiliates, which punished the entire Sikh community for an individual’s mis-statement for which he has apologised. The fact-checkers and editors failed in their responsibility to catch such a breathtaking error. Should there be a cartoon of the Toronto Sun lining a bird cage? It’s offence is far greater than that of Sajjan. Probably not. The news organisation apologised. It should, however, raise its standards for decency. – Anju Kaur

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.

Play

In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.

Play

Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.

Play

The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.

Play

The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.