Friday, October 2, 2009

Justice is blind. What does that mean, then?

The character of Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist says "The law is an ass." I don't know what prompted Dickens to write this strong-worded denouncement of what is considered to be higher than everything else, but the recent happening seem to prove him right.
Just a few days ago, I was chatting with my friend Prem Ayyathurai. He has just got into the Law School in Bangalore. (In case you think I have gone into a time warp, I have not. Prem is my daughter's classmate. But that does not stop him from being friend)
I was asking him how he is finding the subject, how are the classes etc. My curiosity stemmed more from my ever-present wonderment about this whole business called LAW. I mean, how does one 'learn' law? Thankfully, Prem assured me that they are not required to mug up the whole IPC.

Prem went on to tell me that the one thing he was beginning to come to terms with was - it is not so much about what the law says, but it is more about how the judge interprets it.
Which makes it really dangerous. I mean, in that case, it all depends on what the judge had for breakfast, whether s/he had a fight with his spouse in the morning, whether s/he encountered a traffic jam on way to the court, and whether his/her daughter has threatened to elope with the driver's son. If it is finally about how the judge interprets the law, then does that not make the whole thing rather subjective. And dangerously subjective, actually.
Ironically enough, in the past 24 hours, there are three court cases where strange events have unfolded, the kind which will make Mr. Dickens smile from ear to ear (I told you so! he will say)

1. Shiny Ahuja has been granted bail.
2. A maniac father who kept his two daughters chained in inhuman condition inside the house for years has been granted a bail for a paltry Rs.15000.

OK, both these cases are of bail and the final verdict is still weeks, months or more likely years away. But the third case is different.

3. A mother-daughter pair who were charged with kidnap and murder of a doctor in Pune and were sentenced to death by the lower court have been let off by the High Court. The HC has changed their death sentence of life imprisonment. Further, the HC did penalize them for kidnap and fined them Rs.50000.

The background is like this - The two women (allegedly) kidnapped Dr. Deepak Mahajan and demanded 25 lakhs as ransom from his family. When that didn't work, the two (allegedly) killed him by injecting him with a sedative. Further, they are (alleged) to have cut up his body into pieces and thrown them over a long distance on the highway.

Now, the sessions court had sentenced them both to death. Obviously, they appealed in High Court. Amazingly, the HC upheld the charges of kidnap, but not of murder. So what did the HC want to suggest? That Dr. Mahajan cut himself into small pieces? Or that Dr. Mahajan was simply lying down on the footpath of the highway and some butcher who was walking past simply wanted to test his chopper on him?

I am sure that the family of the deceased will appeal in Supreme Court and the case there will drag on for many more years. But - what if the SC decides to hang them? Will that put egg on the face of the HC judges? Or - will it simply prove what Mr. Dickens said - THE LAW IS SURELY AN ASS.


PAPPU said...

A nice read. Fortunately, I have never been involved with law and/or courts (touchwood) but with what we read in the newspapers, the court of law does seem to be a scary place.

Pushkaraj said...

@ Pappu - It can be a scary or a funny place, depending on how you look at it. I was part of a court case that dragged for about 12 years. In that period, how much time did I actually spend in the court? Not even 12 minutes.....