The most visible achievement of the first three months of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's rule has been the closing of scores of criminal cases brought by the previous administration against her and her political allies.
Gandhi, sworn in Jan. 14 after being out of office for almost three years, was the latest beneficiary when a judge Wednesday ordered cases dropped that accused her and two close associates of harassing government employes who were preparing an answer to a parliamentary inquiry into her son Sanjay's controversial Maruti car plant.
Gandhi campaigned for reelection on promises to restore "a government that works in India, lower prices on essential commodities, cut crime and end caste wars." However, according to a recent magazine analysis, she has achieved none of these goals.
Since she won reelection, other cases involving Sanjay Gandhi, R. K. Dhavan, her closest personal aide, Bansi Lal, the defense minister in her last government, and Jagmohan, a close political ally of Sanjay Gandhi and the newly appointed lieutenant governor of Delhi, have been dropped.
All the cases arose from Gandhi's 20-month authoritarian emergency rule, in which civil liberties wer curtailed and hundreds of thousands of her political foes were jailed.
The cases were brought as result of investigations by the Janata government of Morarji Desai, which defeated her in March 1977 elections that focused on the abuses of Gandhi's emergency rule. Her Congress-I (for Indira) Party won reelection in January.
Gandhi accused the Janata of persecuting her and her allies during the 33 months they were out of power and consistently denied the charges brought against her.
Unlike the 1977 election, the emergency excesses were not major issues with the voters.
The critical assesement of Gandhi's first 80 days in office appeared in the magazine, New Delhi, edited by Khushwant Singh, one of her most outspoken supporters.
"During the 80 days," wrote contributing editor Janardan Thakur, "sugar prices have soared by at least 50 percent, mustard oil has become dearer by at least four to five rupees [50 to 60 cents] a kilo, crimes have continued unabated, caste wars and atrocities on harijans [untouchables]" have gone on.
Courts began dropping cases even before the election as indications pointed towards Gandhi's victory.
"In fairness to Mrs. Gandhi, I don't think she has gone around and exerted any pressure," said one well-known attorney who asked that his name not be used for fear of being cited for contempt of court.
"The judges are caving in due to their own lack of character. It is more pressure imagined than pressure exerted."
The special courts set up to handle cases arising from the emergency have now folded up after their judges decided that their courts were unconstitutional soon after Gandhi won the election.
In many cases, it was the prosecutors -- who now find themselves working for the defendant -- who caved in. The best-known example is the Kissa Kursi Ka case, in which Sanjay Gandhi and former information minister V. C. Skukla were convicted of conspiring to destroy a film satirizing Gandhi's emergency rule.
The defendants' attorney spent three months arguing the Supreme Court appeal. When prosecutor J. S. Wasu's turn came in February -- after Gandhi won the election -- he said he had no argument to make and advised the justices to read the complete trial record to find points to rebut defense arguments.
The case is still before the Supreme Court, but most attorneys here believe that there is little the court can do except overturn the convictions.
State governments have also closed cases against Gandhi associates. In Haryana for example, the Janata government opened 31 cases against former defense minister Bansi Lal and his family arising from excesses during the emergency. Last week, the 11 remaining cases were dropped.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, who jumped on the Gandhi bandwagon in January after having served as state leader for the Janata government, denied that the cases were cancelled as a result of "changed circumstances" in the political scene. He said they were dropped on their "merits."
The police Criminal Bureau of Investigation asked to withdraw a conspiracy case against Indira Gandhi's longtime personal aide, R. K. Dhavan, and nine others because it said it could not find any evidence. The 10, which included a number of lesser politicians, were accused of using their government jobs to get political contributions for Gandhi's party.
"There was the pathetic spectacle of the brave investigators of Criminal Bureau of Investigation turning their tails, slinking from their jobs. After months of smart work, they had suddenly come to the conclusion there was no substance in the cases assigned to them," commented Janardan Thakur in New Delhi magazine.
The Gandhi government is also making it harder for the public to learn details of the emergency cases against its members. The government called back all copies of the report of the Shaw Commission that investigated the crimes of the emergency. But the Home Ministry does not know what to do with the 300 tapes of the commission session.
It was almost as if Richard Nixon came back to power and took out of circulation all the government reports of the Watergate investigation, but wondered what to do about the tapes.