Guest Post by – Anand Mazgaonkar
If Marie Antoinette ever said people should eat cake if they didn’t have bread, she was reborn in India recently. Opinion on whether sleeping on a pavement is a crime, or driving a vehicle over pavement dwellers is, is clearly divided. Farah Khan Ali and Ajit Bhattacharya clearly believe that sleeping on a pavement is, driving over them is not. One suspects they will take the matter to a full Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court of India.
It is cruel, insensitive and against mob sentiment to try the wealthy and influential for crimes. The poor rich are unnecessarily pushed into the ignominy of convincing their drivers, bodyguards and sundry servants to take blame and stand in for their crimes. That their case ends up in Court means the system has been very unfair to them. What is fair is that any case, for instance, involving a Corporate honcho’s son’s driving ‘misdemeanour’ never sees the light of day.
Besides, the problem with being a high profile citizen is that you can get someone to take blame for a crime but in event that you’re still convicted the ‘got up’ man cannot substitute you in jail. Someone’s bound to leak it.
Some people are under the erroneous impression that law is meant to serve justice and a trial is meant to establish whether something is true or untrue. Actually, a trial is an intellectual exercise to test whether an alleged crime can be proved or not. And it was just proved that nobody died because of being run over. Hurrah for justice! In any case a good law is that which meets the expectations and opinions of those who are supposed to observe it. So, the only way to make Tax laws implementable was to reduce Tax rates. By the same token criminal law must also be made efficient and implementable. So, the best law in the present hit and run case would be a process where the truth is established by one of the following methods:
- a public vote or referendum whether someone is guilty or not
- a wrestling match between the accused and a kin of the dead man
- the toss of a coin
- a verdict from a guru / baba chosen by the accused
That is the fairest process, the way to move forward. And given our experience of Liberalisation and Privatisation dramatically increasing compliance of law it is extremely unfair to try to force wealthy convicts to go to Tihar, Yeravada or Arthur Road jails. A seaside resort is more practical. In any case, more people are paying higher taxes, so running such resorts at public expense should not be a problem.
We must appreciate that the rich contribute to GDP even when they sneeze. Senior lawyers flying in and managing bail for a normal fee of Rs. 25 lakh per appearance, or if the total legal fees in a case push up to Rs. 15 crore all adds to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The circus does not stop there. Every national news channel with crews stationed at a convict’s residence, inside the Court room, at different vantage points outside the Court all creates employment. Some news channels are said to have stationed up to 25 staffers each. If a sufficient number of wealthy and high profile individuals commit crimes we would probably have no unemployment in the country.
What a national event we’re having. Media attention on an individual’s bail plea, very appropriately, surpasses the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks or the shooting spree of 10 terrorists in Mumbai on 26th November ’08. What a lovely ball-by-ball commentary we had. “Now we see the defence counsel driving to the Court’, “here’s the Public Prosecutor walking into the Court room”, “here are papers being brought”, “senior counsel is now wiping sweat from his face”……..Cricket commentary is usually aired only on one channel and has only one expert commentator. We’re so much more enlightened by the tens of experts on tens of channels. And it was so much more fun because it actually sounded like running commentary on a boxing match.
It is such a SHAME that BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN and Hindi film channels went on with their usual programmes. It is a national insult and possibly contempt of Court too. They should be taken off air, at least for some days, like Al Jazeera was for showing the wrong map of India. Since Parliament did not adjourn for the day some people there should at least have walked out.
The only problem with Salman Khan getting bail and quietly resting in the comfort of his home or minting money shooting films is it is usual stuff, so Media houses will have scratch their heads about what to telecast tomorrow. What will the Media do if there is no earthquake, no murder, no scandal?
Salman Khan, through all this, has graduated from Being Human to Being Superhuman. Ideally, he’d set up a fund for suspension of sentence and bail for all prisoners in the country. May be, an aircraft can be put at the disposal of Sr. Adv. Harish Salve and Amit Desai for jetting from place to place for all criminals.