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Order! Order! Here Comes Law and Order! September 26, 2010

Posted by Gomathi Reddy in Desi Indian, News and Current Affairs, Politics, Women and Children.
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Blame it on being a Perry Mason fan from school days, my interest in Crime & Drama graduated to reading legal thrillers by Scott TurowRichard North Patterson and I still continue to read and re-read quite a few of John Grisham’s works, that occupy prime space in my little home library.   Recently, I picked up Katherine Beckett’s Making Crime Pay: Law and Order in Contemporary American Politics. She points out that the term “Law & Order” was just cooked up to discredit the civil rights movement.  She argues that it was just a making of political conservatives supported by media, with the singular agenda of directing the responsibilities of the state from being social welfare to social control.  According to her, violent crime rate has fallen since the 80’s though the fear of crime has increased considerably in the minds of the American public.

As I completed the last chapter, I took a stroll, wondering if this was true of any large democracy, including my own country, India. And then I bumped into…who else?, “Law & Order”

Oh, hi? Who are you?

L&O: I am Law and Order – with many aliases.  My most popular avatar is Law and Chaos.

That’s funny.  Er…Where are you from, where can I find you?

L&O: In my aliases, everywhere.  But in my original form, nowhere.

I am surprised you thought you should pick up on me, today.  Why? Didn’t you find any honourable judge to brush shoulders with?

L&O: I know you are taking a dig at me.  But, you know what? Once in a while I do believe in respecting the system, lest I am slapped with contempt of court.

I am glad you are available at least once in a while, in the court campuses, even if not in other pockets where you are needed most.

L&O: (With a vicious grin)….Er, you are little blind to the system Now don’t gimme that look.  I had to tell you the truth, because I promised to myself just a few minutes back, that at least to you I’d stick to the truth.  Even a couple of days ago, in the Madras High Court campus, a lady was dragged against her will, to her relatives car, right in front of so many policemen.  And no one dared intervene, because I was in my popular avatar of “Law and Blinded Eyes.”  And the hapless one was sent to the Government Home for Women, which in itself is a breeding ground for all sorts of atrocities against women.

In the same court, there was a habeas corpus petition from a husband, against a girl’s mother and the public prosecutor waved a death certificate proving the girl is no more.  Nobody really knows what actually happened to that girl.  Sometimes I lose sight of which side I am supposed to be backing.  Especially women and children get a raw deal from me.

Aren’t you ashamed to say that ?

L&O: I am….though it is not my fault.  It all happened because our predecessors either thought everything was hunky dory with the system, and they failed to update those archaic laws.  A few others were too smart and wanted to outwit not just women, but all citizens, in everything that they are entitled for. And the result is “anarchy” – my other avatar.

What do you mean?

L&O: According to Article 19, information pertaining to government is a fundamental right of the citizen.  But if the system is truly about being fair and transparent, then how did we end up becoming such a huge, corrupt, nepotistic embarrassing bureaucracy? Citizens had the right of speech of freedom, but with the Officials Secret Act, the bureaucrat cannot be questioned.  The legislature has the parliamentary privileges and the judiciary has the Contempt of Court provisions.  So, where will the citizen go?  In fact these are the very three things that citizens fight all their life and someday, they give up.  So you see it is not enough if I…er the “Law & Order” is in place.

Isn’t the Right To Information(RTI)Act doing enough?

L&O: Even today, people think it is for an “activist” to use it.

So, what’s so archaic about our system?

L&O: Chuckling…Archaic” would be an understatement, and did you know even our Indian Penal Code was put together in 1860! And the laws have so much of legalese that a common man will never make head or tail of it, so there goes your right to information, right out of the window! Listen, why don’t you take up the job of converting all of this into plain-English?

Hello, don’t joke about me okay?.  I AM a plain-english activist, BUT there ends my interest.

L&O: I was not joking.  But, if you really want to have some fun, take a look at our Cyber Laws.  While our police force is still going through training sessions on cyberspace and the crime space, at their own pace, I presume they trust that global cyber criminals will wait with bated breath, for our investigators and cops to catch up with their fast and furious hacking capabilities.  On the criminal side, our police behave like “sirippu police,”(laughable police) in comedian Vadivelu’s style.  Recently, an honorable judge reprimanded the system for crude methods of investigation.

On anarchy…well, I really don’t know where to start and whether there will ever be an end to it. There is too much of it.  Lawyers become vandals, politicians become panthers, policemen become petty thieves, the bureaucracy is just a bunch of schemers – so much of our best brains are wasted on self-defeating measures.

Don’t you ever stand up?  After all we believe you are our last resort. We can’t afford to have you sulking and giving up.

L&O: I need at least a handful few, who believe in upholding the rights of the have-nots.  I need a few leaders, who may be politicians, but are apolitical.  With all the challenges that I face, from terrorism, naxalism, religious violence and caste-related violence, I also end up becoming just another mute witness,  to how the largest democracy houses the most number of criminals in the Parliament – sometimes people who face criminal charges, for some nefarious crimes viz., human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and murder.  Though every citizen understands that there is a politician-criminal nexus, it never seems to affect the election results.  Some of the most heinous of crimes, and the worst of criminal cases gather dust in the courts, despite anti-terror laws, the Right To Information(RTI) activists going to the streets and a reasonably a good percentage of judiciary remaining untainted.  Why? – Because there is too much rhetoric and little substantive action that is taken to support the public’s notion of “good values.”  The commoner too has over the years, begun to grease everyone’s palms, literally everyone – the police, the education institutions, the temple priests, the public servants, the politicians – everyone corrupts everyone else.  It has become the cultural fabric of the nation.  How can I take care of a system, where the “wrong” is considered the only way of “being right?” Maybe redefine laws to suit the current perception of the “wrong” being “right.”

When Transparency International reported that the nation’s poor pay bribes to the tune of $195 million, every year, for public services, it was not only shameful, but was in many ways shocking. While it is disgusting to know that politicians and bureaucracy extract money from the poor to deliver what is actually rightfully due to them, isn’t it a matter of concern that none of these people want to fight back the system?

I  know you are hurt.  But it is so easy for you to say all this.  When the system is built in such a way that a bureaucrat can never be punished, or the politician is empowered to gag even the press, and when  success for a few, and survival for a lot more, are measured only with earnings – in whatever form and format – then it is hard to think about the country.  Poverty, inability to mobilize collective action, too much of apathy, living by the day……we are fettered by too many shackles. Historians will promptly blame the British hegemony as the root cause of the current malady, given that we were groomed to become part of the “babu” culture.  Intelligentsia will blame it on the “emergency” created by Indira Gandhi that sent all anti-social elements and netas across parties, behind bars. While for Mrs.Gandhi, it was just a way of establishing her own personal brand, anyone who went to jail during this period are praised  as leaders, today.  While the Emergency did create a few political leaders out of aspiring politicians, it was also instrumental in creating the politician-criminal nexus – What a boon, for those who missed the British imperialistic period, and the struggle for independence!  The Emergency is responsible for the current culture of  every petty thief, who has been behind bars, portraying himself as amply qualified to claim a party ticket and contest the next election.

L&O: Don’t get so cynical.  Most of what you say is true.  But there is a lot of hope.  Everyday, every leader gets a rap in some form or the other.  We are a great nation, with a great judiciary, though I agree we are a little too slow.  We do have a few corrupt judges, but many honest and upright ones.  They will keep the flag flying high.

Now what’s your take?  Why did you bump into me – to bore me with your rhetoric,  I suppose?

L&O: See, there you go.  Just like R.K.Lakshman’s common man.  You gather information, but prefer to stand by the side lines, and never take cudgels for the right.  Just take a look at the spoils of your nation.  See how you can do your bit, to make it a true democracy.

I am nobody in this system.  I am doing myself a favour, by not becoming a part of this mess.  I have my personal challenges to face. I have no time even for these.  Where do I have the time for my country?

L&O: Do you think your world will not be affected by what is happening to your nation?  You are wrong!  At least to save your own personal world, you must question the wrongs of the society.

Don’t tell me.  Go tell those who don’t even do what little I do.  I think politics is so much part of everyone’s life.  When the oldies in my house create “politics” within the family, how can I presume the nation will be apolitical?  I do believe “politics” will always remain part of our day-to-day life.  But not everybody wants to even listen to what I have to share.  In fact my blog readers think that I talk too much it and it is such a bore!

L&O: I am so disappointed with you. I thought you will do your bit.

To be honest with you, I really don’t care what you think about me.  I’ve to get back to my kitchen, my laptop and my books – in that order.   Ciao.

Law & Order walks away, drained and lost, without even a road map, on where to head next – As always.

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