Word of the Week #193:

Retribution

We all like superheroes, right? 

Who wouldn’t love characters like Batman, who fight crime, go after bad guys, and maintain peace in the world.

However, such individuals are better suited to the fictional world.

In the real world, people who operate outside the law and execute their own brand of justice are not called superheroes. They are are described by a different term: lynch mobs.

Over the past few years, I have noticed that in the wake of any highly publicised violent crime, amidst the usual outpouring of grief, there is a strong public demand for an immediate, equally violent retaliation. Ones who advocate basic concepts like “due process” come to be seen as dinosaurs, and their character comes to be questioned.

While it may seem natural to give in to our basest of instincts in a moment of pain and anger, one most always remember the difference between vengeance and justice. They make look the same when we are blinded by our emotion, but they are quite distinct.

There are practical reasons that could explain why following the due process can be beneficial to the society at large, but the simple fact is that we should not need reason and logic to do the right thing.

Isn’t that the very definition of a civilised society? That we can look past our immediate emotions and do what is right for society as a whole?

As the Chief Justice was forced to articulate, in response to the recent events:

“The criminal justice system in our country must change its attitude towards laxity and the time taken to dispose of each case. But I don’t think justice can ever be or ought to be instant, and justice must never ever take the form of revenge. I believe justice loses its character of justice if it becomes revenge.

—S A Bobde, Chief Justice of India 

Word of the Week #112:

Ammunition

People who know me would know that I don’t drive. Well, to be very honest, I can’t.

Of course, I’m talking about driving a car, or anything larger than that.

I’m quite fine with a moped, actually.

And on the basketball court? Just get the ball on the right wing, crossover to the left, drive and score!

Ain’t nobody that can guard me, Boy! 

However, I cannot drive a car.

In our society, I hardly see the need for one, to be honest.

Sure, there are moments when I wish I had a car. It would, in an ideal world, make things so much easier. But in the real world, it is just not worth the trouble.

For one, it just seems like a huge responsibility, you know. When you possess a car, you are responsible not just for your own safety, but also for all the people around you.

Not to mention, it is just not an easy thing to do. The driving courses are not nearly as thorough as you would hope, nor are the tests as stringent.

And, apart from just driving, maintenance is also a headache. A badly maintained car could, quite literally, blow up in your face with little to no warning.

There are very few things you can encounter on your way home that are as dangerous as an irresponsible, inept individual with a big, fast car.

And entrusting my life to a random stranger is the last thing I’d do. Literally…

Now, when I say this, I do not mean to undermine the role cars have played in making our society what it is today, nor how we continue to perceive them.

A cool spy with his favourite car, with some sort of an explosion in the background, is probably the first memory I have of Hollywood movies.

After all, I was just 3, when I watched Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies.

So, I do get it… Cars are cool. Cars are fun. Cars make you feel powerful. And all that is fine.

However, I don’t see why you should not have to answer a few simple questions to ensure my safety, and that of everyone else who may encounter you along the way.

  1. Do you really need a car?
  2. Do you really need that car? Surely something smaller and safer should do the job, right?
  3. Are you capable of handling that car?
  4. Do you have any history of substance abuse?
  5. Mental health problems?
  6. Neurological issues?

It is not unreasonable to have these questions about cars and the people who drive them, right?

It is a matter of personal and public safety, after all.

I don’t think anybody would really disapprove.

And yet, replace ‘car’ with ‘gun’, ‘drive’ with ‘shoot’ and ‘moped’ with ‘camera’, and suddenly you get a highly controversial political statement, right?

Feels like an attack on your Second Amendment Rights, little American Idiot with an AR-15 in each hand?

At least my attacks don’t leave dozens of innocent school kids dead.

Word of the Week #94:

Jurisprudence

The events of the past week have shone a stark light on the workings of one of the four pillars of our democracy: Judiciary.

For all its powers, the judiciary rarely receives the public scrutiny it deserves.

Sure, people do groan in unison when a high-profile guy is acquitted in a high-profile case after the court observes that the key witness who died years ago is not wholly reliable and had not been cross-examined; but we go about our own lives the very next day.

Quick Tip: If you want to cross-examine witnesses while they are alive, maybe don’t take 5 years to begin the trial…

Equality before law is such a cute thought, is it not?

Interestingly enough, while judges spend their entire lives judging actions of us lesser mortals, they themselves are uniquely isolated from all accountability.

Consider this:

  • Whom does the judiciary serve? The people.
  • Who pays the judges’ salaries? The people.
  • Who selects the judges? Other judges
  • Who can remove errant or incompetent judges? Other judges.

Now, you have to admit that something does not add up.

In November, during a debate over a plea seeking an SIT probe into alleged judicial corruption in a case, the bench of the Supreme Court stated the following:

“—this controversy has been set at rest that even when there is an allegation against Hon’ble CJI, it is he, who has to assign the case to a Bench, as considered appropriate by him.”

Well, it sounds fishy. The Chief Justice can choose which judges judge him. Do I get the same choice? Well, not really…

But as long as this enormous power is wielded responsibly, there is no reason to complain, right?

Well, apparently, at least four Supreme Court judges do believe there is reason to complain.

#TheRebelAlliance

The problem does not lie in one individual, but in the system at large.

Of course, the judiciary needs to remain independent of the other branches of the government.

After all, we wouldn’t want our judges to be strong-armed into clearing political leaders of murder, rioting, criminal intimidation, witness tampering, destruction of evidence, corruption, and other colourful charges without a fair trial, would we? Well, never mind…

The point remains that an institution as powerful as our judiciary, running with little to no accountability, is symptomatic of an oligarchy, not democracy.

Now, are we living in an oligarchy? That is a question for another day.

Word of the Week #79:

consent

|kənˈsɛnt|

noun [mass noun]

default state of a woman, unless negated through sufficient vehemence: it would be really difficult to decipher whether little or no resistance and a feeble “no”, was actually a denial of consent.

ORIGIN

Farooqui vs State, Delhi High Court, dated 25/09/2017

Book of the Week #22:

Brothers in Law,

by Henry Cecil

“And anyone can avoid going to prison under a judgement summons by going bankrupt?”

“Quite correct,” said Henry.

“Then why doesn’t everyone do that?”

“Several reasons. Some people can’t raise the ten pounds to go bankrupt.”

“So a man with ten pounds can avoid going to prison and a man without can’t?”

Makes much sense? Not really, right? Well, that is how the law works. Or used to work… And that is a reason why this writer is still highly popular among lawyers.

You see, there are many great authors who only manage to leave a fleeting impression on the fickle minds that make up our society, and are thereby eventually relegated to a niche audience.

Unfortunately, such is the case of Henry Cecil. While his books may have once commanded praise from even the likes of P.G. Wodehouse, his popularity, or the lack thereof, does not do justice to the quality of his works. Continue reading Book of the Week #22: