Making an Ass of the Law by MOHAMMED ATAUR RAHMAN (JUNE 08, 2007)

The legendary Mr Bumble’s remark, "If the law thinks so" Sir, the law is an ass", we must admit, is one truism that will always retain some relevance, at least in India.

Look at the way law proceeds. One by one the people whom the Maharashtra courts found guilty in the Mumbai bomb blasts cases of 1993 are being awarded long sentences, including life term.

That this is what should be is obvious. But, think for a while, it took the courts 14 long years to come to the conclusion that these people were guilty. Even now actor Sanjay Dutt is still awaiting a verdict.

Justice delayed is said to be justice denied. So, this is one kind of denial of justice. The other, more disturbing and ominous, is the nature of justice regarding mass violence in 1992-1993 in Mumbai.

We all know that selective justice is no justice at all. And we are afraid what is happening today is selective justice as only one set of culprits are being punished, those involved in the blasts.

The other set, led by no less a person than Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, has not been even touched. They set fire to Mumbai which burnt for 10 long days and nearly drove the Muslims out of the city just before the blasts.

Nothing happened to them. If one set of criminals is let off without so much as a word and another set is awarded long sentences, it destroys the credibility of the justice delivery system, to the detriment of the entire society.

The courts cannot possibly be faulted for the lapse because they proceed on the basis provided by police reports. And the police, in turn, never move against someone the administration does not want them to move against.

The administration’s bias in the Mumbai riots was evident from day one. In his day Prime Minister Narasimha Rao sat quiet in his office in New Delhi for 72 hours as the Babri Masjid was being demolished and local Muslims massacred.

Rao did not so much as budge while Shiv Sainiks went on a rampage all over Mumbai for 10 long days. But, he quickly jumped to attention when the blasts came along in the wake the Mumbai riots. At a meeting with journalists and writers at the Prime Minister House lawns Rao declared grandly, "We will chase the anti-national criminals across our borders and catch them wherever they are", without making the slightest reference to the "nationalist criminals" who had started it all from Ayodhya to Mumbai.

It was quite obvious to Muslims that the "nationalist criminals" (so to say) would not be touched even if they kept on publicly boasting about their "heroic" deeds at Ayodhya and Mumbai. This, in fact, is a pattern that holds since the last six decades. That, needless to say, is not good for the credibility of the justice-delivery system.

Case after case after case -- be it Jamshedpur, Raorkila, Ranchi, Bhagalpur, Moradabad, Meerut or wherever -- criminals attacking Muslims have gone scot-free, but Muslims have always been dealt with in an extraordinarily strict way. If the law thinks that it is doing justice, then "the law is..."

Mohammed Ataur Rahman

Go Back