July 28, 2016
The recent news of Salman Khan’s acquittal in a case of poaching, after a trial that lasted 18 years, has provoked sharply divided opinions and angry abusive comments by trolls on social media against those who questioned the verdict. Those who are staunch supporters, among them the entire Bollywood fraternity, have stated that one must respect the judiciary in their fair and well thought out judgement. But when one actor, a colleague of Salman’s raised a question : Why did the judiciary take so long to pronounce the verdict, angry trolls have attacked her. She asks a very valid question : What is wrong in asking questions? Should people not express their opinions?
I would extend that to the ask a more wide spread statement that I (don’t we all?) hear all the time : “I don’t want to get involved.” Accident victims are noticed by motorists passing by, but they do not stop to help because they don’t’ want to get involved with the police. There is the tragic case of the Nirbhaya rape victim and her companion who were lying bleeding by the roadside in freezing cold, because those motorists driving by who saw them : ”did not want to get involved.” Cruelty to animals, women attacked in the open, street fights and injury, are noticed by bystanders who watch without any protest, – some may even use their cell phones to record (later to be used by the media for publicity, often for a price). Eye witnesses politely decline to make a statement because they do not want to get involved.
WHY? Why do people with even an ounce of humanity not stir themselves to offer succor to those in dire need of help? Why do people not stand up for justice and voice their support.
On the judicial side, yes, court cases drag on for years causing prolonged mental agony and stress to those plaintiffs seeking justice. There are often sympathizers who voice their support in private but will not take a stand in the cause of justice to the aggrieved, because they do not want to get involved. For those wealthy litigants prolonging a case is a remission from justice. But for the thousands of rural poor or lower middle class litigants thronging our courts, there is no end to the continuing pain, anxiety and financial distress. WHY?
I can answer. As a fighter I have always fought alone. My so-called friends and supporters either lack the courage to voice an honest opinion for fear of the consequences. There is no such thing as the ‘greater good’, or in the ‘larger public interest’. The thought behind this lack of involvement is usually “what is there in it for me?” Self interest drives citizens, social good is usually not at all relevant. Dharma is a flimsy word discussed more as an intellectual exercise than a real active expression of a duty to uphold fair play.
I can extend it even further to ask why a judge/magistrate or judicial official recuses himself (or herself) from a court case without an obvious reason, because a litigant usually sees this as copping out of a decision the outcome of which they fear – they don’t want to get involved. One questions the ethics and suspects raw self-interest – ostensibly their motive in withdrawing from a case, but in actual fact a quid pro quo.
So the thought for the day – everyday – is : Let the media handle this, they need the eyeballs. But — I don’t want to get involved.