Friday, September 22, 2017

The bloodthirsty Indian

I believe that we, as in those who live in Bharat/India are a very bloodthirsty lot. Not only bloodthirsty and seeking “faansi”, but vengeful in the extreme, and when capital punishment or “faansi” is somehow not possible, the accused should be immediately clapped into prison, never to be released.

I am sure you will remember the hullabaloo and baying for blood of Sunil Kulkarni. You should first read my post on on this subject here. For those of you lazy creatures who could not be bothered clicking the link, here is a synopsis. Mr. Sunil Kulkarni has started what has hysterically been called a `cult’ – Shifu Sunkriti. Two girls aged 21 and 23 fell into his thrall. To cut a long story short, following complaints by the parents, and much hand wringing by the Bombay High Court, Mr. Kulkarni was arrested in April 2017. No charges have been framed. Now the Hon’ble Bombay High Court has asked the Police to investigate if the two girls were raped!!! The girls have never complained of rape. On the contrary they consented to being with Mr. Kulkarni. How could rape possibly be in the equation? Meanwhile Mr. Kulkarni languishes in jail. I still believe he was a mini Hugh Hefner – playing out a male fantasy surrounded by nubile nymphets.

There are numerous examples of people being jailed for disproportionately long periods. Presently, builders are at the receiving end. You have the corrupt Jaypee Group being hauled over the coals in Delhi for not constructing flats they sold. The story of Pujit Aggarwal of Orbit Constructions in Mumbai who was jailed for 10 months before being granted bail is another. Jitendra Jain of Kamla Landmarc is also in jail. Of course we know of the sad and in my view unjustified incarceration of Subroto Roy. In all these cases, the crime is basically monetary. Money taken and goods not delivered. While ultimately a jail sentence may well be called for, a more pragmatic approach to free up assets and repay money could and should have been followed. But no, we are bloodthirsty and vengeful.

Take, on the other hand, the real crime of driving while drunk and killing several people. Does the name Janhavi Gadkar ring a bell? She killed a few people. Was in jail for a few days but was released on bail. The damage done by her cannot be worked out or settled by doing some financial machinations. She killed people for God’s sake. So, my point is, if you want to be bloodthirsty and vengeful please do select your targets correctly. Why keep builders in jail for months and drunk drivers who kill for days?

This brings me to the main issue.

First, a simple concept in law. Organizations – companies, trusts, societies – do commit crimes. However, the organization cannot be jailed. The organization can be fined but, as I have written earlier, not jailed. So, the law has provided in its infinite wisdom, that when an organization is guilty of a crime, its directors, officers in default, trustees and committee are to be punished by either fining them or putting them in jail. The directors, officers in default, trustees and committee members are not directly liable as they have not committed the crime themselves. They are guilty vicariously. To give you an example. A 150 year old banyan tree is cut down without permission in a factory by a gardener using a chainsaw. The authorities will prosecute the company, the gardener, the factory manager and the directors. Except the gardener, no other person cut the tree, and possibly were not anywhere on premises. You can see that except the gardener no one participated in the crime of tree cutting, but, in law they are guilty vicariously.

I hope that you have got the concept firmly imbedded.

The case of Pradyumna Thakur a young 7 year old is tragic. Poor child went to school and had his throat slit, allegedly by his school bus conductor in the school toilet. Our “middia” were quick to say that not only was the child murdered but he had been sexually molested.

On cue, the bus conductor was being interviewed on national TV where he confessed or stated that he had indeed killed the child. Now this in itself is shocking and breaks all norms of criminal jurisprudence. After arrest, firstly to put the suspect on TV is shocking. Is it just a crude attempt by our police to show how they have solved the crime? Secondly, to ensure an impartial identification, the faces of accused and suspects are kept hidden – which is why you see black hoods. Here of course everyone was playing to the gallery. As was to be expected, with the passage of time and involvement of all sorts of interested parties, the bus conductor now claims innocence. To add fuel to the fire, the forensic report shows no sexual assault.  Is the “middia” contrite? Perish the thought.

Fine, so you may ask, how does that make us bloodthirsty or vengeful? Well, assuming the accused is guilty; clearly the bus conductor killed the child. Is anyone baying for his blood? Nope. They have already jailed the regional head of Ryan International School, one Francis Thomas. In fact everyone and his cousin are baying for the blood of Ryan Pinto the CEO of the school and Ryan’s parents. Augustine and Grace Pinto. They really had nothing to do with the murder. They [probably excluding Thomas] were not even on site or in the city. No doubt they are probably guilty vicariously for failing to ensure as management that the school was adequately secure, staff vetted and so on. But murder? Of course not. I do not believe that murder can be committed vicariously. In this intense pressure I believe that even our Courts are forgetting the meaning and ambit of vicarious liability. There is a concerted effort by the Courts to deny bail to the Pintos. Surely, the Pintos could be protected from arrest on strict conditions that they should co-operate with the police. After all, the police want to solve the crime not simply arrest people. If the Pintos can be available for questioning why arrest them? Impound their passports, issue lookout notices so that the Pintos do not flee.  

The situation has become even more dire. The Gurugram Bar Association has prevented any lawyer from representing Thomas. I mean is he the murderer? The “middia” has conveniently ignored the alleged actual murderer as he is certainly not newsworthy. The murder is done and dusted. The hounding of Thomas and the Pintos is much more juicy for the “middia”. And the “middia” can use their investigative skills to show how the Pintos are a suspicious lot; money launderers, crony capitalists and what have you. Frankly, as compared to the bus conductor, the Pintos are much bigger fish. Who gives a damn that their liability is vicarious and they are certainly not guilty of murder?

The “middia” and our attitude towards the CBI is frankly hilarious. When any investigation is done by the CBI against Bobby Vadhra the CBI is a caged parrot and an organ of the state being used to harass. Now when there is a murder we want the CBI to do a “poori jaanch” into the matter. Yes, in BJP ruled Haryana. Now the CBI is somehow not the parrot? Look at the damage you are doing to the morale of the police. Do you believe that under such provocation they will perform even a halfway decent investigation? Or, is it that we know that the CBI is a brutal almost Nazi SS type organization and they will hound, torture & harass the Pintos which is really what we vengeful folks want in the first place.

If you read reports in the “middia” or watch what passes as news on TV, every time there is a crime, the relatives of the victim will, in the harsh glare of arc lights, accompanied by chest beating, howls of despair and anguish, not forget ever to say that nothing less than “faansi” will satisfy them and give them justice.

Why are we all so bloodthirsty? Why do we always want “faansi”? Why do we want to jail people for the slightest reason? What about all those oft repeated clichés – this is the land of Gandhi et al?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The E Challan

I am thoroughly impressed by the Mumbai Traffic Police. I mean this in all honesty. Unfortunately, their greatness is not given the due recognition. The last sentence was written facetiously. Their brothers, the normal Mumbai Pandu’s or Sakharams are acknowledged as being second to no less than the hallowed Scotland Yard.

Let me tell you the reason for my high praise.

On 14th September 2017 - the day before the last day to pay advance tax, as the Income Tax Department dutifully reminded me by a polite SMS – I was driving back home at about 10:50 AM. I stopped at the erstwhile Globus traffic signal, wanting to turn right towards Bhabha Hospital from Hill Road. Now the spanking new Marks and Spencer store stands tall there. I was stopped at the head of the queue, and when the lights turned green, I took the turn. Everything was rather uneventful.

That afternoon, while I was out, I received an SMS, yes, a good old fashioned SMS from our friends at the Mumbai Traffic Police with the infamous and dreaded E Challan. The SMS informed me that my offence was “halting ahead white line” [sic]. To be fair it was an SMS so they are restricted to 140 characters. There was a link attached. I copied the link and emailed it to myself.

I opened the link. You could do it too, to see what a dreaded e challan is. Click here to see my e challan. I was gobsmacked. Several reasons. First, the link contained photographs, not one but two, with my car and numberplate clearly visible. No defence Mi Lord! I was guilty of “halting ahead white line”. As the cliché goes – Mea Culpa. Secondly, this was a photograph of my car taken just that morning. Thirdly, the e challan contained a payment link. Fourthly, and most importantly, the payment link worked. I paid the fine of a princely Rs 200 by credit card from the comfort of my home. Of course, I have taken a print of the receipt and kept it in the glove compartment of my car, just in case they catch me on the Sea Link!!!

You will agree, this is most impressive. Yes, it does gall me very much that I was caught while millions others, both washed and unwashed, mango and non mango people, violate traffic rules and get away, while I am caught. But, you do know that two wrongs do not make a right. I was wrong and was unluckily caught.

Does this mean that we do not have to deal with the dirty cops anymore? No handing out licenses, going to a “Chowky” to pay the fine and release the license? Does this kick the Pandus in the proverbial stomach, since there is no baksheesh involved? You simply get the bill at home and pay up!

It is funny saying this. But, at the end of the day, I was quite pleased with my committing the crime and receiving the punishment. Most pleasant process.

Three cheers to the Mumbai Traffic Police for a fantastic e challan experience.