Of Cabbages and Kings

December 27, 2008


Filed under: Across the Universe, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 1:24 am

The better half and I were discussing the non-exclusiveness of our profession recently. People leave doctors to medicine, researchers to biotechnology and engineers to electronics but everybody has an opinion on the law. While this is certainly a desirable tendency in a democracy, the opinions come shaded, colour-coded almost, according to how informed the opiner is. And this applies to both lawyers and “lay-people” (the nasty patronising epithet that lawyers are taught to use for non-lawyers in law schools so they can feel a little more special) – a badly informed lawyer will come up with exactly the same kind of silly nonsense as anybody else…which does the beg the question of what the lot of us spend all our time studying but I’m going to swerve around that little issue today and move on to my pitch for the day.

One very popular demand in post-attack-on-Mumbai India is for admission of confessions as evidence. A confession is not admissable as evidence in India* and everybody is upset that although the media has tried and convicted the sole captured terrorist avaliable after the attacks, and his confession has been publicised, the confession cannot be submitted to the judiciary. A grand and colourful contradiction is emerging as a result – on one hand, everybody is grumbling about the ineptness of our investigation agencies and on the other is encouraging this ineptness by insisting that they should be permit to toture so-called confessions out of random people and admit these documents as evidence in courts in lieu of doing the spade work to come up with anything else at all that points towards the guilt of the accused. While I always thought the non-admissability of confessions as an important safeguard against abuse of the criminal justice system, I did not know of its history until I read ‘Under pain of death‘.

That people are thinking about the law is an encouraging sign for the democracy. That they are thinking of it in the silly dramatic and superficial way that the media encourages – that your opinion matters but you needn’t trouble to work enough to make it an educated opinion – is not. In the spirit of encouranging opinions – educated opinion – I offer you ‘Under pain of death‘ as something to mull over before leaping into the Confessions As Evidence debate.

*except for parts pertaining to physical evidence that was discovered as a result of the confession. So if a confession mentions the location of the murder weapon, and the weapon is found at that location, that part of the confession would be admissable, but a confession that simply admits to the murder would not count for anything.


August 21, 2008

Binayak Sen

Dr. Binayak Sen, somebody who has done a lot more for the country than most people, is now a victim of the ridiculous charade that passes off as justice in India. He has been in prison for over a year now. Read about him over here. If you are moved, you could sign the petition to free him.

Imprisonment of people that speak out against the government is becoming unsettlingly frequent. There was Professor Geelani a few years back, Binayak Sen last year and Ajay TG this year. And these are merely the high profile cases that find their way into the media.

So many of us, the Indian middle class, feel so complacent and secure sitting on our plush couches watching fluffy shows like Big Boss on our flat screen televisions and driving to expensive restaurants in our glittering cars. Once in a while, we see newsreports of bombs and terrorists which disturb us a little. Like frightened children swallowing a fairy story to rationalise surroundings that we don’t understand, we accept draconian laws trustingly and have touching faith in the police who we believe will use all this power we give it to shoot all the bad guys and make the roads safe for our new cars.

In the meantime, the people who can see what is really going on and who speak out against it are slowly being erased – the mild form of this removal is that they are ignored and the extreme form of their disappearance is that they are arrested – and we have no idea that this is going on.

Ours is a country where each of us has the freedom of speech and expression, and the right to ask questions when we can see that rule of law is not observed. By ignoring our right and allowing ourselves to be lulled into complacence, we are creating a frightening country for ourselves to live in. And by our indifference we are allowing the few heroes who champion our cause to be annihilated.

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