Objection overdone!

The sensational special court judgement in Jayalalithaa wealth case is a watershed. But it is the post-verdict scenario that stumps our senses. The reactions and arguments that are on parade since then raise more questions than the verdict itself does.

Will the State ever emerge from its, er, emotional state? The passion for drama, a pet, perennial fare in the TN theatre particularly after 1967, is on full show. And a show, that’s what it is. There is surely something surreal and synthetic about such screen-deep display of sentiments. The cinema/serial smitten citizens, pardon, fans, who form the majority here, are always waiting to let out steam. Only the dramatis personae and degree vary depending on the pedigree, popularity or position of the ‘damaged’ idol, which is either a politico or actor.

Should the State have come to a complete standstill? This too is a strikingly familiar scene. Like the restored re-runs of vintage films, a retrospect of the demise days of Anna and MGR and other momentous events and agitations flash in front of our tired eyes. Mad mobs on rampage, arson and rioting, stoppage of transport, effigy-burning – only because the object of ire is not physically available to be set fire – and yes, deaths of innocents by trademark Dravidian means like self-immolation, all make for a sickening ‘culture’! That officialdom, drafted to predict and protect, were caught napping is shocking. The damage was less only because the many-times-bitten populace thought better and stayed indoors, despite their life and living going for a toss!

Can staging of such spectacles really ‘move’ the judiciary? No, yet they are enacted, not just by frenzied faithful, which is understandable, but also by so-called saner sections. Industry and trade bodies, professional associations, that of even the lawyers’, film fraternity et al are in top form. An elected municipality even broke new ground … and rules, by passing a resolution of condemnation. These protests, spurious or spontaneous, pass under the banner of sympathy and solidarity. The teary swearing-in was a novelty. Such excesses are only expected. But some breached the delicate veil of public decency. Disagreements and private doubts liberally spilled into open forums as downright derogatory allegations against the judge. Now, this ‘might’ move the judiciary!

Is this judgement just about Jayalalithaa? There is a larger picture. The special court is only the first rung on the legal ladder. The course of the case in the higher courts will be of great national ‘interest’, in both senses of the term. This is the first notable legal litmus test for the apex court’s clarification last year by which a conviction was enough to disqualify a politico from public office and polls. The defence and prosecution strategies, in this new reality, will set the tone and trend for the future of anti-corruption proceedings as also for protection against witch-hunting, J’s claim in the current case. From 2G to Maxis to CWG to Coal, this case will be a precedent. Whatever and whenever the outcome, Lokpal debate and of course, some lawyers, will stand greatly enriched!

Other arguments range from strange to ridiculous. Kannadiga chauvinism tops the charts. There is then the notion of people’s court being superior to judicial courts. That would acquit almost all politicos. UPA-2 came about and Raja became tele minister in ‘09, after the 2G scam and LS polls. Here, AIADMK and DMK have been alternating in power, accompanied by the Fort-Court routine, only via people’s mandate. Really, in people’s court, only people will end up guilty for consistently electing politicos accused of corruption and criminality. Again, comparing the sizes of scams or trying to distinguish between smart corruption and sloppy corruption will lead to misplaced sympathies.

The solution? Law can punish; law can pardon. It is a dumb ass that can be kicked around. The final indictment or acquittal has to come not from constitutional courts or citizens’ court but from the conscience court. This court in which the trial takes place in silence and solitude is at once the defence and prosecution, the all-knowing witness as well as the unrelenting judge. There is no exemption or escape here. Those in public office must ponder this at a deeply personal level. What is paramount? Private itches or public trust?

Voters are choice-starved and helpless. Why not the politicos, for a change, treat these deserving unfortunates as their real ‘families’ and ‘friends’ and serve them? Or if not, at least spare them?

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Jawahar T R