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The law is an ass

It is not only the flaws in our judicial system that allow such miscarriages of justice to take place but also the shortcomings of our media, which do not cover cases to their conclusion and leave us guessing, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2009 23:16 IST

Madhu Koda’s arrest a few days ago follows the pattern established in our country in dealing with the rich and powerful caught committing acts of criminality. Initially there is a lot of righteous hoo-ha in the media about no one being above the law of the land. Those caught protest their innocence, accuse unnamed individuals for conspiring against them and threaten dire consequences if they are prosecuted. Most are taken ill: Koda developed stomach trouble, Buta Singh’s son Sarabjot got heart problems and spent a few days in hospital. Doctors never tell them, “There is nothing wrong with you,” and send them home. Instead, they carry out all the tests they can think of before discharging them.

That gives them sufficient time to the accused to plan out their strategy, consult lawyers and friends on how to get out of the clutches of the law. They spend a few days in judicial custody and apply for bail. Once out on bail, they are no longer newsworthy and soon everyone forgets about them.

Does anyone know what happened to the high priest of a famous Hindu temple down south who was arrested on charges of corruption, conspiring in the murder of one of his detractors and molesting women? All I know he was granted bail and was probably back in his temple, conducting prayers.

Does anyone know the outcome of the charges of making vast sums of money levelled against Natwar Singh, former External Affairs Minister, his son Jagat and his friend Sehgal in the oil-for-food scam during the Iraq War? I have no idea except that all three are enjoying life. So is Sarabjot Singh, who made a full confession of demanding a huge bribe in a case pending before his father. Buta Singh continues to hold a constitutional post; Sarabjot has enough to continue living in comfort.

It is not only the flaws in our judicial system that allow such miscarriages of justice to take place but also the shortcomings of our media, which do not cover cases to their conclusion and leave us guessing. Our aim should be to try people accused of bribery and corruption, convict or absolve them as they deserve and not leave cases hanging in the air for years without end.

Eid Mubarak

There was a time when I used to ring up all my Muslim friends on all the three Eids and wish them Eid Mubarak. They grade their three Eids in order of importance. The most celebrated is Eid-ul-Fitr, following the month of fasting Ramadan. Then comes Eid-ul-Zuha or Bakr Eid to commemmorate Abrahim’s offer to sacrifice his son. Eid-e-Miladun-Nabi celebrates the birthday of Prophet Mohammed. It does not evoke the same religious enthusiasm. I know not why.

On all three Eids, Muslims embrace each other three times and say Eid Mubarak. I do not know if men do the same embracing to women. But I had a memorable Eid-ul-Fitr in Goa when I took the liberty with Shabana Azmi. That was long before she married Javed Akhtar. Also I am not aware if mullahs would approve of a kafir embracing a believer. Probably not. And order my arms to be lopped off as punishment. However, it was worth losing one’s arms for the triple embrace.

I no longer ring anyone on any occasion. I’ve gone old and deaf and lack the energy to do so. My feeling of warmth for my Muslim friends has not abated one bit.

Last Eid-ul-Zuha I was in for a pleasant surprise. My neighbour, Dilshad Sheikh, sent me a bowl of kheer (rice pudding). I was sitting by the log fire, writing a letter of thanks to her when she walked in accompanied by Bina Ramani. She was dressed in light pink kurta and churidar with diamonds sparkling on her rings and necklace. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever met. A grandmother three times over who yet looks like a bride in her twenties. Bina told me about a book she was writing. She was the principal eye-witness in the Jessica Lal murder case; it took place in the restaurant she owned. If well–written, it might make a best-seller.

I confess I do not feel too enthusiastic about religious festivals celebrated by slaughter of animals. On Eid-ul-Zuha thousands of goats, lambs, camels and cows are butchered all over the Muslim world. They feel they have made an offering to Allah and will be rewarded for it while the real sacrifice is made by butchered animals.

I feel the same about the slaughter of goats at the Kali Temple in Kolkata and the Kamaksi temple in Guwahati. I was sickened by the news that in Nepal they slaughtered 25,000 buffaloes at one go. Nepalese are Hindus who revere cows as their mothers (gau mata) because they drink its milk. Many more people drink buffaloes’ milk because they yield more milk than cows. So what is the logic behind this senseless slaughter ?

I concede meat eaters eat slain animals. All carnivores, birds, fish etc. live off eating each other, but that does not entitle them to feel virtuous for doing so.

Man Versus Snake

J.P. Singh Kaka of Bhopal sent me a couplet written in Hindi on the back of a truck:

Insaan insaan ko duss raha hai

Saanp side mein baith kay hass rahaa hai

I have translated the lines in English as follows:

Man bites man with venom of his tongue;

Snake watches by the side and has fun.

Khushwant Singh is on leave. This column will not appear for the next two Sundays — December 20 & 27, 2009