Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Law unto Themselves

Bollywood always had a fascination for the courtroom. From the classic Waqt to a crusading Damini & the lighthearted Kyonki Main Jhooth Nahin Bolta, the courtroom dramas evolved along with the changing mood of the cinema. In fact, the blindfolded Justice balancing the scale of justice is one of the most overused imagery in hindi cinema & falls in the same bracket as two flowers brushing each other or the lightning & rain as a cover for murder or other heinous crimes.

However, this may soon change. A more dramatic image of a lawyer with one hand holding case files & the other ready to hurl a stone is more apt for the movies being made now. The camera persons in bollywood can thank their counterparts in the media for discovering this new emblem.

Look at the picture closely... what do you see? A lawyer in his trademark dress, reflecting a pride in his fraternity & its culture. Left hand by his side holding his case papers, sign of a dedicated professional. Head level, eyes looking straight ahead, in a display of focus & determination. Right hand pulled back, holding a brick... an artist at work. This photograph was not shot by some movie maker or a fashion photographer after hours of rehearsal with the added luxury of choosing from the umpteen shots taken. This picture was snapped by a media person live, as it happened, capturing the full emotions of the person & his ethos.

Photography at its best. Especially as one considers that the photographer was himself the target of his own target! This happened outside the Civil Court in Bangalore where the lawyers hurled projectiles at the media persons. And later, the police too!! 

Like other privileged classes in India, the lawyers are also a law unto themselves. If You or I were doing this, we would have been accused of taking law in our hands. But the lawyers already have the law in their hands & their hands on the law. In fact, their hold on the law is so strong that it is difficult for a normal person to understand the law. So much so, this made Bernard Shaw proclaim "law is an ass". If Bernard Shaw was right & law is really an ass, should the lawyers be called as******?

Many film makers have educated us that "kanoon ke haath bade lambe hote hain". And when the reach falls short, the law(yers) in Bangalore Civil Court use stones, bottles, helmets... and whatever. The police of 11 nations were stupid to try & nab Don on their own. Had the task been assigned to the men in black from Bangalore, they would have made him come out of whatever hole he was hiding in. US is not fortunate enough on this count & it had send its marines to get hold of Saddam. But we have a long history of not utilising our resources judiciously. 

The police has always had an uneasy relation with the lawyer community. The police may be the protectors of law, but the lawyers are more conversant with its intricacies. Thus, most of the times the police apprehends those on the other side of the law, they are set free by the lawyers. This has made the police slow starters & late finishers.  In Bangalore too, the police were slow to respond & did so only after they themselves became the target! You see, the lawyers not only know how to outwit the police, but also how to make them work!

This incident also shows that the humble stone is now hot. From the valleys of Kashmir to the court premises of Bangalore, it has traveled a long way. Perhaps, "being bangalored" would soon acquire a totally different meaning! But I am not able to fathom the reasons for this transformation of lawyers into a stone throwing fighters & what this may lead to. 

Lawyers have always been crusaders. Our notable freedom fighters were trained lawyers & they took on the might of the British empire. As a result, lawyers have always been involved in active politics. Even today, most political parties have an army of lawyer-members to represent them in chatfests conducted by the news channels. Those feeling left out (like Prashant Bhushan), join other crusaders (such as Anna Hazare). 

Imagine a discussion on a news channel, say Times Now. Arnab Goswami, out of sheer habit, is needling the panelists. As the debate fires up, so do the passion of the panelists. Today, we find them shouting at each other & outshouting each other. If the panel consisted of lawyers from the Bangalore Civil Court, we would watch them take out stones and hurl these at opponents. Soon mikes would be yanked out, shoes would be removed and used as missiles. Today, one finds a battery of OB Vans outside TV studios. Tomorrow, ambulances would be assembled while a debate is being conducted inside.

If the lawyers themselves start hurling stones, where will that leave our traditional politicians. Politics has been a useful tool to channelise the time & energy of those with violent tendencies. Now that the lawyers have joined the fray, what would those people do? Today, for want of enough prison room, the courts release inmates so that they can go out & be a part of our democratic process. They become the vital cogs that make our democracy vibrant, bringing voters to the booth & when they run out voters, taking this task upon themselves. If the lawyers take this responsibility upon their capable selves, the courts would no longer need to release the inmates. There would be no space to hold the Kalmadis & Kanimozhis... 

This is a scary thought, let's hope the Civil Court in Bangalore is able to civilise its lawyers.

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