Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The scales of justice are lopsided

What I saw Wednesday
It's funny how so many things come together and make you ponder about an allied topic that perhaps ties them all together. This may sound all twisted and weird, but here's the deal. If we were to watch the news today, there is tremendous hue and cry on how there has been a total miscarriage of justice (a very trendy word, it appears for the media, who have been using the term from Jessica Lall, through Ruchika and now to the Bhopal Gas disaster). Anyway, the issue being talked about is our legal system and the way in which, people cringe at the mention of the word 'sue'. Not defendants, but rather complainants themselves who many-a-time choose not to opt for the legal route because of the slow churning wheels of the law and the high associated costs!

People died in the hundreds that night, when India was still a fledgling democracy. It's wrong to view a 1984 case through the lenses of today! Union Carbide has been taken over by Dow. The CEO is 90 years old! What punishment can you give a 90 year old man??? 20 years in jail?
Some points they mention in the case are rather sad though. That Union Carbide compensated the Government back then on the basis of the number of casualties they reported back then. But that was Bhopal, a small town in pre-liberalized India! An India that 6 years later would teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. How can you expect such a Government to provide veracious data? Statistics and data were not strong. Obviously they wouldn't be, since 1984 was still an age of Doordarshan and no computers, let alone spreadsheets and internet. And what about the millions suffering birth defects today? But then again, what happened to those who brought about the disaster at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? War time crimes do not classify as comparable cases, you say? Well, a human life is a human life, and prolonged, chronic, perpetual harm as an underlying thread is decidedly comparable!

Along similar lines of negligence, but on a smaller scale is the loss of life through negligent driving. Over the past 2 weeks, I've seen news of some top notch politician's kid ramming a suave car into a cab, an auto rickshaw, people, snatching away the ballast of a family in one rude jolt. A young mother of 3 kids, the eldest of which is 4? The sole earning member of a family of 5 young girls? And the perpetrators walk off on bail. And you truly wonder whether India is a country of numbers alone. A rather sad fact. Whether the anchor of a family dies as a result of a chemical leakage, or as a result of a road accident caused by rash driving by a rich kid, a family is devastated. A tragedy occurred in 1984, and almost 26 years later an apology of justice is being meted out. Several tragedies occur on Indian roads today, and 26 years later, I doubt whether anyone would even remember the incident!

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