Choose your crime well

Since law in Bharath always takes its own slow course, it is ever a case of justice denied. At the other extreme is ‘encounter justice’ which is delivered instantly, often before an accused reaches court. Now how do the criminally-inclined negotiate this huge chasm? We herewith offer those troubled souls itching for trouble with the law some trouble-shooting tips. This is no foolproof user-manual but just a bunch of insights on the knack of being on the right side even while on the wrong side of the law. Now I guarantee no success nor am I responsible if crimes rise. They will, any way!

It is vital to define a ‘criminal’ upfront. Psychoanalysts say that every individual is a potential criminal. Not surprising, because we share five senses with animals and the unique sixth one which is supposed to temper a human is often off duty, grazing somewhere. So with all of humanity in the dock vis-a-vis intent, a criminal act logically becomes the test of criminality. But here again, we are on a shaky wicket, because the commission of a crime does not always create a criminal. Defence of self and nation are classic examples. The easy way out, therefore, is to define a criminal as one who gets caught for a crime. Although modern jurisprudence would deem him innocent until guilt is proved beyond all reasonable doubt, I would still hold him guilty. The stupidity of getting caught is a crime that deserves punishment!

And that’s the first key tip. Getting caught particularly can wreak havoc on a casual criminal’s curriculum vitae though some career criminals are more likely to take the jail-bail routine in their stride as net practice. But either way, it remains a pain and I am not just referring to the one generated by the contact of the lathi with the kneecap. Even an isolated criminal record is a permanent stigma; many casual criminals turn careerists as society continues to punish even long after the law is done with them. Smooth criminals who slip through the net nonchalantly, however, have better options, primarily politics. But all is not lost because thanks to some easy interpretations of the EC rules, even convicted law-breakers can become law-makers. The last word depends on the sentence which in turn can open a new chapter for them!

There is a bigger threat however. While much is made of the aforesaid criminalisation of politics, hardcore criminals should actually be worried over the politicisation of crime. There were days when individual robbers, rapists, murderers etc constituted an exclusive club; the stereotype stood out so much that you did not need evidence to nail them. Their looks said it all. And then came the institutionalising of crime bringing those isolated individuals under the umbrella of the underworld. Organised gangs and mafias ‘killed’ the vintage criminal. The colluding constable got replaced by the CoP himself, matching the rising status of crime. But even those gangs now face extinction with political buyouts. Now, criminals have turned lackeys while the political bosses use them liberally to protect all their ill gotten power and pelf. This evolution can be discerned in the movies over the years too. Unbelievers can check out on their nearest neighbourhood dada who will most likely be at least a member of a local body. What a fall for the crime fraternity! Small wonder no one fears or ‘respects’ a criminal without a party link, preferebly a ruling one! So I would advise lone wolves to go with the tide for a bright future, possibly in N.Delhi itself. Or risk getting bumped off in an encounter at the local street corner!

Now to the business prospects. The political takeover of crime has zoomed the criminal economy too. In present political parlance, financial crimes are called scandals or scams, a lofty nomenclature for what in those days went under the tame heads ‘stealing’ or ‘embezzlement’. The semantic sophistry is deemed necessary in tune with public and media perception which in turn is enamoured of size and scale. Bofors may be just a paltry 64 crs compared to spectrum’s 100,000crs (and rising). But it was a pioneer of sorts. Today, the scam industry touches new highs with every scandal. And unlike their lowly criminal ancestors who had no insurance against the vagaries of the law, the current crop of political crimesters are quite well insulated. At worst, they get dropped from a plum post, a la, Kalmadi or Chavan and have an inquiry commission tugging at their sleeves for some time. In due course, while the booty remains in their kitty, the nation would have sent a few more crores of good money chasing them. Reason why I was rather happy when the CBI let off Q on Bofors. I also pity Ramalinga Raju, a white collar criminal who cannot hold a candle to the white kurta (or veshti) ones. He missed AP CM-ship! Criminals should, therefore, hone their carpet-bagging skills and aim big if they aspire for the political arena. They must choose the right party, the right godfather read thalaivar and the right project. Great men of the past talk of delivering newspapers and studying under lamposts in their childhood. Today’s greats too come from modest beginnings! So who knows, the next Kalmadi could be right next to us, eyeing our back pockets.

No doubt there are risks and tests. The greatest ordeal is not the court trial but the media trial. Unless the crime credentials are certified by the media, a true criminal is never made. In fact, the media pre-empts even the courts and their laws often. There are many recent instances whence the media tried, condemned and even hanged the accused even before the court dawali could say ‘order’. Or think of the many rank criminals who got elevated as VIPs just after a stint on prime time. But besides media there are other super judges who can convert a criminal into a crusader. But that calls for luck for it is not often that every Geelani gets a backer like Arundhati Roy. Criminals must also understand that the chances of activists’ approval, which is deemed to be that of ‘civil society’ by some divine law, is very high if they combine raw murder or loot with ideology. I would recommend an apperenticeship trip with the aforesaid A.Roy the next time she goes into the forests for a cup of tea with Maoists.

Mob justice poses another hurdle. Popular rage ensured that the Kovai rapist-killer of a young girl got gunned down in an encounter this week. In fact that was the event that has inspired this ‘Help’ column. Such instant justice though mortifying for a mob also exposes the chinks in the judiciary. Obviously, official vigilantism evokes more fear than the law and that does not bode well, both for the criminal as well as that blind-folded lady with the weighing scale. Worse for the Almighty whose penchant to wait and kill finds no favour with those baying for bloody revenge, here and now. But what of Kasab or Afzal Guru? Where is the mass indignation that was so visible on TV screens? Terror, the ultimate modern crime, rather crime in the name of the Ultimate, has no day of reckoning, paling even the politicos. Kasab’s mates were unlucky. Had they dodged the bullets, dodging the law would have been child’s play. A terrorist’s neck and noose never meet. For zealous criminals, that’s safe passage, almost paradise.

That I think is enough crime for a day. Those itching for more intricate insights can watch TV serials to get updated on the latest trends, like, say, a D-in-law’s devious plans for her M-in-law or vice-versa! Really, TV crime is staple cereal in our homes. Small wonder we call it ‘killing time’.

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Jawahar T R