Sunday, December 10, 2017

Thou shalt not speaketh ill of the dead

Had only Moses (Charlton Heston) had longer and stronger arms, God need not have stopped with 10 commandments; could have added many more injunctions, like the one in the title.
This thought came to me soon after the Indian Supreme Court put a full stop to the mega serial of trying Jayalalithaa and her cohorts for amassing wealth “disproportionate” to the known sources of their income. But, as irony would have it, Jayalalithaa died as someone still under trial. All her cohorts have not been that lucky!
I am no legal eagle and among the more than a few words in the final judgment that I happened to read in the MSM, one stood out. The case against Accused No. 1 (or something like that, referring to Jayalalithaa) stands “abated”. The appropriate meaning of this term as far as I can tell, is the case has become null and void. This appears to be the direct result of the “eleventh” commandment given in the title.
So, my question: In what way does the fact that she was not alive to hear the pronouncement of guilt against her make the case against her “null and void”? True, the sentence would be “abated” – (I am starting to hate that word).
For the uninitiated, Jayalalithaa tried every trick in the book of Indian jurisprudence and introduced some more on her own before the case came to the Supreme Court, for the second and final time, if my timelines are correct. So, there cannot be the defence that she was not there to defend herself. All her defences were duly noted and breached definitively. Now, to imply, by saying that her case stands “abated” is a pretzelized form of saying she was not found guilty.
And, I am appalled. If her cohorts were found guilty, Jayalalithaa was also guilty – if there is a gradation of being guilty, she was more so – and she escaped the sentence only by dying. Why could our Supreme Court not get itself to say the same in simple words, just like I put it? Legalese, never favoured by common citizens, just added to its burden of making itself less understandable – legalese becoming more and more jargonized, to be understood only within the corridors of our system of justice, while claiming to serve the society as a whole. Another piece of irony, you say?
I am sure God did not issue the eleventh commandment only because He was afraid how the legal community would twist and interpret it, and in the process wring out its meaning, like drying clothes in a tumble drier. So, Charlton Heston was meant to carry only Ten Commandments and he surely did.
And the “Shalt nots” ended.
Raghuram Ekambaram

P. S. This is where I appreciate the apocryphal stories of the past about the behaviour of Tamil rulers – Manu Needhi Cholan, just hearing the cries of the cow, through the ringing of the bell, that its calf had been run over by the prince’s chariot, ordered that his son be done in so. No, I am not for death penalty and that is simply not the message. It is to admit guilt as early as possible, do not go through hoops of fire to avoid being pronounced guilty. One retains his/her dignity through this act. Jayalalithaa just fell down on the other side of the wall she was sitting on, but the result was the same – none could put her back together.   

No comments: