Having stopped watching television for a couple of weeks I found that I was not missing anything much. By and large watching the news debate is very interesting to observe people’s opinions on something they know nothing about. It is also interesting or depressing to see politicians views and outlook and the partisan attitude to anything and everything.
It was a misfortune that I got engrossed in the recent two issues of national importance viz the Sanjay Dutt sentencing and the return of the Italian marines.
I On reflecting, I think it is clear:
a. Sanjay Dutt was guilty of a crime of possessing arms illegally. While he has explained his position, the fact remains that he knowingly did something illegal and it is assumed that he knew the consequences of what he did.
b. He has been acquitted of the more serious charges of terrorism but has been consistently found guilty of illegal possession of arms.
c. Our constitution is based on the premise of equality of all before law so he should be tried as any one who does any similar act but does not bear his illustrious named, lineage or connections.
d. Courts need to act based on law and not on public opinion. The most ridiculous argument is the amount of money locked up in films and that is mentioned as a reason to release him.
What is not beeing discussed is that it has taken 20 years since the offense to reach a conclusion. This is not a final conclusion since a review petition can still be filed and it is not known how long this process will take. Why does it take so long to deliver justice ? This is an area which needs urgent reform and which no one is talking about. A lawyer relative had once told me that the law is basically common sense but in India what rules is procedural law viz a viz principles of law. That is, it is very easy to delay justice by following procedures. As a side note, a common method earlier of protest used to be “Work to Rule”. If everyone worked to rule, nothing could be done. When bus drivers and conductors worked to rule, they did not allow anyone to stand, waited till all tickets been purchased before the bus moved….. So working strictly to rule can cause a near collapse of the system.
Coming back to the Sanjay Dutt case – once again my sympathies are with him. HE has committed a big crime but one can say that he has reformed and the idea of a prison sentence is after all to reform criminals and put the fear of prison as a deterrent for crime. But to release or pardon him would mean looking at similar cases and not making any exceptions because of his public standing.
This is also a very strange case. The final result is a credit to firm diplomacy. The facts are clear
1) The Italians did kill the fishermen. This is not premeditated murder but would be homicide.
2) There is a dispute about jurisdiction and this needs to be settled fast
3) They had got bail from the courts and hence has freedom of movement. Chandan Mitra from the BJP was accusing the government of colluding with the Italians pretending to ignore the fact that the govrnment is actually following the law.
4) The Italians were undoubtedly planning on “pulling a fast one” but did buckle under diplomatic pressure.
5) There is no point in ranting on intent but it is important to note that the matter is “resolved”.
6) Credit is due to the government for handling it with the seriousness due. There is no doubt that an aggressive supreme court did contribute to push for a solution. But for the court the government would have dawdled.
7) The Italian government need to keep Italian public interest in mind as much as the Indian government needs to keep Indian public interest in mind. What is said in public is not necessarily said in private. Diplomacy works differently.
What is again not being discussed is the fact that it is 1 year and 2 months since the incident and we are no where near even starting the process of trial. There are 2 straight forward points here, 1) Where is the trial to be conducted given international treaties and laws that we are signatories too and 2) Are the marines guilty of murder and if so of what degree. There is justifiable outrage on the part of the public on the behaviour of the Italian government and ambassador but no one seems to be talking about an immediate trial.