EQUALITY BEFORE LAW
Myth on paper, unreal in practice
By Amba Charan Vasishth
Congress rallies in support of ex-PM Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Biz honchos come out in support of (Kumar Mangalam) Birla.
Human rights and social activists rally behind Teesta Setalvad alleging she is victim of an administration out to harrass her for her espousing the cause of the Gujarat riot victims.
These are some of the highlights of the headlines that appeared in the media recently. With such averments and behaviour by the people who matter, are they slowly and steadily not displaying their lack of faith in the rule of law, the investigating agencies and criminal jurisprudence of the country? Inadvertently or otherwise, it looks they are.
What for does this "support" stand for — support for the person who allegedly committed a crime for which his/her conduct is under investigation and trial? Does this conduct behove a responsible, law-abiding citizen of a free and democratic India? Does it ennoble political parties and leaders — some of whom are law-makers themselves — who boast of doing their very best to usher in a civil society where peace and prosperity reigns supreme where justice prevails, innocent are protected and guilty get punished? A regime under which the people have no sense of security of life and property and criminals do not dread the rod of law is a jungle raj.
Whenever a politician is brought to book for a crime he committed, whether in the discharge of his official duties holding a public office or in the performance of his political activities, the instant — and stock — reaction is that the case is "false, baseless, unfounded, politically motivated, an instance of political vendetta, aimed at character assisination" and what not.
Take note of just a few cases during the last some years. Whether it was the Commonwealth Games scam, 2G scam, Coalgate or others, the then Congress-led UPA government had rubbished the CAG and his reports. On the contrary, the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi are on record having defended that no wrong had been done in violation of the UPA government policy They even issued 'honesty' certificates to the accused A. Raja and others. When Dr. Manmohan Singh's name surfaced in the Coalgate scam, the whole party stood behind him. As the investigation progressed and facts oozed out, the then CAG Vinod Rai appears now to have the last laugh. The likes of UPA ministers Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram now turn the laughing stock of the people for their funny statements and logic.
Now that Dr. Manmohan Singh has been sum named as one of the accused in the Coalgate scam by a CBI court, the Congress party is standing as a pillar of support behind him. The industry has come out unanimously behind Kumar Mangalam citing various reasons. Protest demonstrations too are not an unheard of even.
A public display of affinity amounts to undermining the credibility of the judicial system and faith in the law to dispense justice by giving a free and fair trial. The judicial system provides for at least two ladders of appeal to higher and the highest courts of the country to ensure that everybody gets justice. A media trial does justice to no party. But the way verdicts, without trial, of "guilty" or "not guilty" by the interested parties and well-wishers, particularly politicians or socially aligned to the accused, can be most harmful.
The Constitution may provide equality before law for all without discrimination on any ground but these gestures by the higher echelons of society seem to be presenting a different spectrum — a spectrum of the practice of law one for the elite and different for the ordinary mortals. A law under which the latter are paraded handcuffed and denied bail even for petty crimes and if allowed bail, they do not have the financial and social resources to fulfill the conditions. They are condemned as "guilty" instantly without trial. On the other hand, the privileges class even when charged with heinous crimes like rape, murder, cheating flashes a broad smile merrily waving to the crowd as if in a battlefield making a great sacrifice fighting for the nation. Even when found guilty and sentenced to prison, the ordinary being rots in jail undergoing rigorous punishment. But the elite enjoy their sentences in the luxury of 5-star hospitals or have fun getting every comfort in the four walls of a prison.
In a civilized society a crime cannot be a matter of pride for one to raise one's head high and matter of curse and shame for the less privileged.
It is time for all to do something to stem the rot and not allow this notion overwhelm the mind of the common man. That would be disastrous for the democracy and the nation. The people who matter need to ponder before it is too late. ***