Saturday, January 21, 2012

Equality before Law vis-a-vis Exemplary Punishment

In the recent past we have been made aware of the extent to which various politicians and ministers have been indulging themselves in terms of corruption. More specifically CWG and 2G scams have eroded the already dwindling credibility of Indian politicians to nearly zero. We have mentioned in the past that we may need to introduce the idea of Exemplary Punishment. Here we explore the idea a little further.

Our current judicial system is derived from the English Common Law system which emphasizes the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different occasions. Further there is this Presumption of Innocence, stated differently An accused is innocent until proven guilty. Thus the burden of proof rests upon the prosecution. And then there is the notion of Evidence, that is what constitutes an acceptable proof. Further, our procedure also emphasizes that "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". Each of these point to lofty ideals. However, when they are applied in the present context of Indian Politicians, it surely is a mockery of justice.

Before we proceed further we recall anecdotes from Hindu Tradition.

1. Bhagwan Rama's spy heard a washerman's conversation with his wife in which the washer-man accused Bhagwan Ram of some neglect. And that resulted in the exile of Bhagwati Sita. From a devotee's perspective, it was one of the most poignant tale in which one of the most exalted woman underwent great suffering owing to casual and callous remark by a insignificant person. Please note that we do not imply that washer-men are insignificant or that kings must ignore the views of their common subjects. This is to mention the importance of striving to set and maintain the highest possible standards by people at responsible positions.

2. A just king had constructed a huge bell at a public square so that anyone seeking justice could ring the bell and seek justice at any time of the day or night. And then, as the story goes, once a cow rang the bell by pulling the ropes at the dead of midnight. The king on investigation discovered that his son, a prince, had crushed the cow's calf under his chariot. The king ordered the prince to be crushed under a chariot.

How barbaric and uncivilized, some would say! But try and find out whether the Hindi Film celebrities who have crushed many humans to death - the poor humans who were sleeping on footpath because they had no homes - have met with any punishment. Try and find out if the son of a South Indian Chief Minister who is known to have raped a News Reader has met with any punishment. Observe how those, who have the slightest power in India, behave with the poor and the powerless. And then one would realize whether we have ANY justice here in this country at present times.

We also emphasize that we should not forget the bravery and kindness of the same poor and common people during floods in Mumbai towards all fellow beings, an example that is worth remembering for a long time. Thus if the poor and powerless are good in India, it is NOT because of our system but it is because of our Hindu Tradition. While if the rich and the powerful are indulgent criminals, it is NOT because of our Hindu tradition, but because of the existing toothless and sissy system.

People with high privileges are roaming scot free for they get the same benefit-of-the-doubt that a petty criminal is entitled to. Remember that Lalu has not been commensurately punished for the fodder scam, nor have the Bollywood trash been punished for killing humans or endangered species of deers.

We would like to state that notwithstanding the intricate definitions of common-law, equality before the law, presumption of innocence, and all that:

1. People with higher privileges must be judged by harsher standards (the higher the privileges, the harsher the standards).

2. The time taken to disburse justice, especially punishment, must also be much shorter for the more privileged.

3. The criterion for getting bail and such benefits must also be much more stringent for persons with higher privileges.

We do not want petty thieves to rot in judicial custody for years for alleged crimes of stealing a bicycle, while Bollywood stars and ex-Ministers indulge in the luxury on bail after allegedly committing murders and misappropriation of lacs of crores of rupees. If you want the luxury of lenient law, then you must opt for humble circumstances.

Another standard counter would be: If such a system is put into place then nobody will be willing to accept responsible positions of being a public servant. We would say, even if that IS the case, we would rather reach that situation for once, than suffering agonies under the present public-masters who are masquerading as public servants.

If bail to privileged and jail to unprivileged is the meaning of "Equality before the Law", then to hell with such equality. We want "Exemplary Punishment" to be put in place. And of course, this is well in line with our earlier demand for a New Constitution (see for example, here, here and here).

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