Lalu Prasad Yadav, gifted with rare wit and self assurance, was always known for his cavalier approach while confronting ups and downs in his life. Such was his reputation among his cadres that when he entered the courtroom of CBI Judge PK Singh on September 30, his supporters outside were still hopeful that their charismatic leader with always something new up his sleeve, would be able to turn the tables and stage a triumphant comeback.
But, as per newspaper reports, in the courtroom, Lalu was not only obedience personified before the judge but he also made a timid plea saying, "I was the chief minister of Bihar for two consecutive terms and a union railway minister also. Please consider awarding me lesser punishment."
I am sure Laluji, who is a law graduate and was the unquestioned king of Bihar for 15 long years, must have read our ancient system of jurisprudence that happens to be a part of the LLB curricula. Manu Smriti states that "where an ordinary man would be fined a penny, a king shall be fine a thousand. The punishment inflicted on a king should be thousand times heavier than that on an ordinary man; the king's minister 800 times; the official lower than him 700 and one still lower 600 times and so on; even the lowest official, such as a constable, should be punished not less than eight times as heavily as an ordinary man would be, for if government officials or servants are not punished more severely than ordinary people, they would tyrannise over them." Manu, a great sage, had definitely foreseen the situation we have today.
The present Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, though seemingly egalitarian, came into practice in India in 1861 in the form of criminal code procedures but before that we had our own system that was not only fast but the punishment served the purpose of retribution and set an example to deter and prevent others from taking to crime.
Village assemblies and the king administered fast justice, with the assistance of select persons known for their wisdom and townsfolk. People directly participated in adjudicating guilt and awarding punishment. The emphasis was on the good of society.
Lalu was convicted exactly 18 years after the complaint was made about the fodder scam. At this rate, if any politician commits a crime when he has crossed 60, the age of adolescence for politicians in India, he can hope to go to the grave unpunished.
Now that the government is contemplating a fast-track record for politicians booked for crime, it will be befitting for law makers to revisit our ancient system of jurisprudence.