Lightening, they say, doesnt strike the same place twice. But that is probably because it isnt as enterprising as shady multinational corporations. Like the company that has taken money from two power projects for the same set of machines. A three-member bench of the Supreme Court ordered the company to pay back the advance it had received, along with due interest. The said amount was duly paid yesterday.
Kudos to the apex court, then. It showed some proactivity and got the publics money back. The judiciary, of late, has been accused of not respecting institutional jurisdiction. There have been cases, like arbitrating prices for certain commodities for instance, that were perhaps not within its domain. But with instances like the sniffing out of the rot in the power deal, it is finding more and more public support. Strictly speaking, taking action on the irregularities is the job of the regulators. To be fair to the regulator, Nepra did not approve the tariff rate when it swooped in on the irregularities itself.
This wasnt a typical case of judicial activism. The latter is a prickly option and could be misused; in fact, it often is the world over, specially right next door in India. It was, rather, a case of the court coming to the defence of the public exchequer. Will this embolden the judiciary to dabble even more in other, more objectionable forms of judicial activism? Possibly. But if the government is really so interested in territorial issues, it shouldnt give the courts an opportunity of the sort in the first place. A crackdown on corruption and a practice of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts in government contracts is the best defence against any encroachment on its turf.