Saturday, November 23, 2013

Long live the Khap

The preface to this post could take many forms. In fact, I wondered long, though not very hard, how I should start. Ultimately, I decided to go with the flow. So here goes.

I am a qualified lawyer. I studied, passed exams, served as an apprentice in a large law firm under a really nice immediate boss and some really nice indirect bosses. I absorbed, I stumbled, I learnt, I made mistakes and was and am reasonably successful. I suddenly realised that I have been a qualified lawyer for 25 years! Over the years I learnt many laws, I advised many clients and I was part of an entire legal `eco’ system. But, in light of three recent episodes, I am convinced that there is not much of a future for young budding lawyers. I had my day in the sun, now the sun is slowly and surely setting on the legal profession.

Many of you may know what `Khap Panchayats’ are. For those of you who do not, let me give you a short explanation. A `Khap’ is a system of social administration. Very broadly speaking, the Indian social fabric revolved around a village. Groups of villages formed `Khaps’. These `Khaps’ selected or elected a `Khap Panchayat’ which consisted of five members who are in charge of governance of that `Khap’. Over the years `Khap Panchayats’ have become a sort of quasi judicial body dispensing justice. They form their own rules, interpret their own customs and generally function totally independent of the established legal system. They have, over the years, become, to use a cliché, a law unto themselves.

That is quite enough of the prefaces. Let me get to the point.

Tarun Tejpal. What a lovely man! The man sends out an email to the colleague he sexually assaulted. The email contains the following paragraph.

“It wrenches me beyond describing, therefore, to accept that I have violated that long-standing relationship of trust and respect between us and I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.

This email was sent by Mr. Tejpal totally voluntarily. He was not subjected to any third degree punishment by the police, no order of any court, nothing. The lovely man admits to the actions. Now what does he and his bunch of equally high thinking, deeply intellectual colleagues do? He admits to the crime, he himself atones; he dispenses punishment himself to himself by recusing himself from work, and gets on with life. `Khap’? Is this not an example of a `Khap Panchayat’ at work? The confession, the judge, the jury, the punishment all by one person. Wonderful.

Take the rag tag bunch who call themselves the Aam Aadmi Party [AAP]. With their ridiculous caps they look like Bombay Dabbawallas or, as an ex boss of mine Bhai Rege used to say, like `bloody Gumastas’. They get caught on camera accepting money and making promises to do such utterly petty things that it makes me sick. Why can they not be like the Congress ministers, take crores for allotting coal mines, or allotting Mobile spectrum, think big. Anyway, what do they do once this tape becomes public. Deny, say there is no wrong, say that they want the unedited tape, say that since the tape was not given to them but to the Election Commission they are now free to basically do what they want. They decide that by Saziya Ilmi not standing for election, all wrongdoing is washed away. `Khap’? Is this not another example of a `Khap Panchayat’ at work? The judge, the jury, the punishment all by the same gang. A law unto themselves.

Then take the case of our old friends the Campa Cola Residents. Many of them, generally the guys who bought on a resale, bought flats knowing full well that the buildings did not have an occupancy certificate. They bought the flats at a discount and thought they had a bargain. When the Supreme Court passed the orders mandating the Municipality to demolish the buildings, the residents stayed put, barricaded themselves in and wilfully disobeyed the Supreme Court orders. Anybody else does it they would be clapped into jail for Contempt, but not here. They had their own law, their own rules, their own perception of right and wrong. In fact they came from the two wrongs make a right school of law. `Khap Panchayat’ at work?

So folks, while all this is sickening, and we all careen into anarchy remember the good old days and simple village life. Long live the `Khap Panchayat’? My days as a lawyer are numbered, who needs lawyers anyway? If you have any kids wanting to do law, tell them to forget about it, waste of time, they will be sitting `velha’ and will want you to look after them. You just decide what is the wrong you have done, set your own punishment and get on with things. DIY - do it yourself!

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