Monday, July 26, 2010

THE PRICE OF JUSTICE? LET’S FIX IT!!

THE PRICE OF JUSTICE? LET’S FIX IT!!

Justice is sold nowadays. That is the sad truth.

Before I begin my views on “Justice”, let us see some telling moments and their timelines in world of justice (both India and worldwide).

January 23, 1996: Priyadarshini Mattoo raped and killed allegedly by Santosh Kumar Singh. Delhi Police registers FIR.

Oct 30, 2006: Santosh Singh given the death sentence by Delhi High Court.

August 12, 1990: S P S(A high Ranking police officer) Rathode then IG allegedly molests Ruchika in his office.

May 25, 2010: Rathore's sentence enhanced to 18-month jail term and fine of Rs.1000 (~$20).

2007: Goldman Sachs earns approx $3 billion from subprime crisis

Jul 2010 ... Goldman Sachs Pays $550M Civil Fraud Fine.

April 29-30 1999: Jessica Lal shot and killed in public at a party in Qutub Colonnade restaurant in south Delhi.

April 19, 2010: Supreme Court upholds conviction and life term of Manu (Son of a famous politician).

July 2010: Lindsay Lohan is awarded 14 days in jail for drug abuse and possession.

I chose these few moments, because these are some of the moments when high and mighty were supposedly punished for their misdemeanors and crimes. These were the moments when justice had supposedly prevailed and David had beaten Goliath…. Or had he? I used the world supposedly here.

Let me examine the notion of justice from a romantic’s point of view. The perpetrator of crime is punished: swiftly, appropriately, without bias and without regards to his/her economic or social status.

For me these are the 4 keystones that upon which the house of justice stands.

Yet what I find invariably is not justice. At best, I deem them to be grotesque imitations of justice. The romantic inside me wants to rejoice at these convictions and yet the cynic inside me remains unconvinced.

As the timelines show, the “justice” was served after 10 years or more in Indian cases. That too, because these cases had come in the limelight and had resulted in a trial by media. I am totally convinced that for every Jessica Lal who gets justice that there are 100s more who can only dream of the same. In the American cases, although the decisions were relatively swift, they were a rap on the hand at best; like one would do to a naughty child for his cute mischief.

This is the age of free market economy. Capitalism. Everything has a price. Everything is for sale. So why not justice? Let us sell it to the highest bidder.

Let us not kid ourselves. We are selling justice anyways. Maybe not explicitly, but underlying implication remains the same. Why do I say this? A police commissioner is sentenced for 1.5 years in jail and fined 20 dollars for molesting a girl of 14 years who kills herself as she cannot see the torture of her 10 year old brother and grief of her parents. Lindsay Lohan walks after 14 days. Goldman is given a puny fine (yes, considering what they had earned). Sanjay Dutt is given the benefit of doubt in TADA (Anti terrorist act) case.

I guess killing is no big deal then. I just have to pay a $20 fine and spend 1.5 years in jail with parole after 20 years. Great, I will take the deal.

If I had been in place of Sanjay Dutt or Lohan, could I have possibly ended up with a sentence as light as theirs? No. I don’t think so. Maybe Dutt did make a genuine error (of keeping AK56 rifles and grenades in house. Everyday occurrence don’t you think?). But if you or I had made the same mistake, we would have been rotting in jail for 20 years without the hope for a parole.

Invariably the people on the receiving end are like you and me. The common people: with no money, no power and scared of those in power. This is why their rights are encroached upon. The lawyers that we hire in the fond hope of getting justice are like us too. Underpaid and struggling to make ends meet. In today’s world the rich and the famous hire a battery of overpaid lawyers who earn more in a day than 98% of the people earn in single year. They intimidate the prosecution lawyers by various tactics. In the west, getting a light sentence is all about the quality of lawyers one hires. The better and more “connected” they are, the better are one’s chances of going scot free. In India, one is lucky if one even gets a decision.

Make no mistake. We are already selling justice. The poor more often than not cannot afford to hire a lawyer and give up their fight and accept their fates with resignation. They give in the face of bullying tactics and sheer intimidation by the very people who imposed this indignity upon them.

When I look at the above judgements, I am filled with a sense of despair and feel for the kins of the victims. I don’t think they should celebrate for they have not won. They only haven’t lost. For me “justice delayed is justice denied”.

I have read of a tradition in Sicily, Italy. Of Mafia. They used to pay the victim’s family an indemnity to placate them. An amount was negotiated and a settlement was reached. This was true for any crime; from murder to thievery.

I propose that we do the same in our current system of Justice. It is not an uncommon practice to reach out of court settlements for land dispute, libel or other sundry cases.

I think we should also fix the price for everything. From murder to pick pocketing. It should be a market determined price; somewhat like a modern stock market. With prices adjusted for inflation and limited “justice cards”. Anyone can bid for them. But the catch is that the victim/victim’s family should agree to the perpetrator paying the indemnity.

I believe that a regulatory body should look over the sales. Some portion should go to the victims and some to a central fund which can be used by others victims to hire lawyers to fight their cases. Previous offences should be taken into account. If the person is a previous offender, he should be forced pay an exponential rate of fine. Or if multiple offences are there on the chargesheet, multiply them. Like $300 for first murder and say $9000 for the second one. Also, the criminals should be forced to take care of their victims (wherever applicable).

I, for one don’t believe in the current justice system. The justice dispensed is neither swift nor appropriate. The rich get away with almost anything. If I am murdered tomorrow and even if the murderer is brought to the book, it would give my soul no peace. The form of justice that the current system dispenses is a retributive one. It serves no one. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. My parents would still be forced to fend for themselves in their old age. I would feel better, if they could at least spend their old age in comfort and security, rather than running from pillar to post, trying to secure justice for their now departed son; Even if it means “selling” their son.

Maybe, the new system makes no bones about favoring the rich and allows them to go scot-free if they can buy justice. Maybe it condemns poor to a fate out of which they cannot buy their way out. But then, I feel we already are doing this. The “justice” dispensed now would be no different than what we are already is. It will only be more open and fair. Atleast this way one can see how much a life is worth. Atleast we won’t be hiding behind a shroud of morality to conceal what we already doing: Selling justice.

The current system of selling justice is defunct. The rich and powerful rule. The poor can only suffer. They can only forgive and move on. Let us give the poor of today a chance of leading their lives with a modicum of dignity and comfort, after their self respect has taken away from them.

Everything has a price. Why not justice? Let’s fix the price of Justice.