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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Have political ploys made the law an ass?


Is the law an ass?’ asks a character in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, Oliver Twist. Several incidences over the last few days make ordinary folk wonder whether the law is really an ass?

ITALIAN MARINES CASE The first of these concerns the Italian marines’ case, which raises several questions. Why had the Indian Supreme Court exhibited unseemly generosity in permitting the Italian marines – undergoing trial for first degree murder - to return home first to celebrate Christmas and then to vote in an election?

The Italian marines were undoubtedly undergoing trial for first degree murder as they shot to kill. Their claim that they thought that a pirate ship was closing in and they shot in self-defence does not wash. For, as trained naval officers, could they not distinguish between a pirate ship and a fishing boat? Were the naval officers so scared of a small fishing boat, that they thought that it was closing in to hijack their vessel? If so why did they not fire warning shots to dissuade the boat even assuming that it was closing in, which appears far-fetched?

Could an Indian citizen undergoing trial for first degree murder expect the same treatment from the Indian courts? Had an Indian Court ever permitted a prisoner, undergoing trial for first degree murder, to go home to celebrate Diwali? It would never have occurred to an ordinary citizen in judicial custody, undergoing trial for first degree murder to even pray for such leave. Therefore an ordinary citizen should not be faulted if he wonders why, even for the Indian Supreme Court Italian citizens are more equal than Indian citizens’. On many occasions in the last thirty years, the Indian establishment has demonstrated that for it, Italian citizens are indeed more equal than Indian citizens. The reason for the establishment to bend backwards being the Italian connection of India’s ruling party is quite obvious. But does it matter to the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body and the last arbiter for the ordinary citizen without any clout?

Having blundered twice, the Indian Supreme Court sought to make amends by taking a tough stance in restricting the movements of the Italian ambassador. This put the Indian establishment – especially with its Italian connection – in a quandary. After days of huffing and hawing about Italian perfidy (by the primary and proxy protagonists of the government), the External Affairs Minister grandiosely announced (not without a hint of self-congratulatory glee) that diplomacy succeeded in making the Italians see reason. His tall claims notwithstanding, there are several questions that require answers: 

Why did the Indian government sign a treaty with the Italian government in a hurry while the murder trial was under way? Was it not to benefit the two marines? Do sovereign nations sign bilateral treaties to solve instant crises? 

How would the Italian government have reacted if two Indian naval officers killed two Italian fishermen and were undergoing trial in an Italian court? Would it have been as generous as the Indian government?   

Did the Indian government make a clandestine deal with the Italians to satisfy the Supreme Court and bring back the marines? If this is not so, how could Salman Khurshid assert that the marines ‘will not be awarded death penalty as theirs is not a rarest of rare cases’? If it does not fall in the ‘rarest of the rare cases’ category are Indian fishermen routinely fired at and killed by foreign marines? 

Who should decide which case falls under the ‘rarest of the rare cases’ category or not? Is it the judiciary or the External Affairs Ministry?

The upshot of the deal - which the Minister denies was done - is, the marines will not be taken into judicial custody during the course of the trial; they will stay in their embassy; they will not be awarded death penalty as their case is not in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ category; and if awarded a prison sentence, they will serve it in their own country.

SANJAY DUTT CASE The second case is even more bizarre. It is about the sentence the Supreme Court awarded to Sanjay Dutt, famous film personality, son of a famous film personality and former Congress MP and bother of a sitting Congress MP. The four qualifiers deserve to be stressed to put the case in perspective. The 1993 Bombay blasts (in eleven locations) killed 257 people and severely injured 700 people. According to some sources, the number of injured was 1400.

[Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister of Maharashtra (at the time) later confessed that he deliberately misled people by adding Muslim dominated Masjid Bunder to the list blast locations to pacify communal tensions. See: To keep the peace, I misled people on 1993 blasts: Pawar. This secular balancing of terror has been going on since 1993. Pawar’s confession puts the pronouncements of P. Chidambaram, Sushil Kumar Shinde et al., Rahul Gandhi’s whispering to the American ambassador about Hindu Terror and the NIA ‘investigations’ in certain cases, all in perspective. To grab and retain power, secular politicians would go to any extent to appease the minorities, principally the Muslims. The invention of a phantom Hindu terror is part of the game.]  

The Supreme Court verdict in the case confirms the role of the ISI and several underworld dons. Sanjay Dutt’s role in the blasts has been known almost since the beginning. He had been known to confer with the dons, converse with them over phone and collect and store arms for the attack. His pedigree and the power of his political connections helped in almost getting him off the hook. 

If the CBI could be used to discipline wayward coalition partners to fall in line, it could also be used to save loyal allies. In Sanjay Dutt’s case the CBI did all it could to help him evade the long arm of law. It did not matter to India’s premier investigation agency that it was indeed obstructing the course of justice. It delayed investigation to help Sanjay Dutt destroy evidence, did not pursue leads, presented a weak case in the trial court and did not appeal against the trial court verdict. The CBI did not work for the people, who are its paymasters. It worked against them, and for an individual who declared a clandestine war on the people. Just as in the marines’ case, in Sanjay Dutt’s case too, it has been kinship with the high and mighty that carried the day.

One can understand the clamour of the film fraternity to obtain state pardon for Sanjay Dutt. It has been known for long that the same forces that supplied Sanjay Dutt with prohibited arms and ammunition to wage a war on the Indian state also control the film industry. But why would a retired judge of the Supreme Court and Chairman of the Press Council want to interfere with the administration of justice? That is the sad part.

The highest court in the country has delivered its verdict unambiguously pronouncing Dutt guilty. The Supreme Court has also been magnanimous in awarding the least possible sentence according to law. If in spite of this, as the Law Minister averred, an appeal for pardon is favourably considered, it would amount to subverting the justice system.

2 comments:

  1. I dont know if law is an ass.
    I,for sure know that someone is making an Ass of most of Indians

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chowlaji,

      That was a funny but nevertheless quite true observation!

      Delete