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Mis-carriage of criminal justice

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In the midst of the recent Karnataka assembly election campaigning, a member of a certain popular yahoo-group suddenly came up with a posting that Dr Ashwin Mahesh, the LokSatta candidate from Bommanahalli constituency, has a criminal record. With LokSatta generally projecting itself as the crusader against corruption, besides 'criminalisation of politics', keeping Dr Ashwin Mahesh in the forefront of its campaign, this came as a rude shock to the Yahoo-group members. Fortunately, a more discerning member bothered to delve into the site, which had published the info, a bit more deeply, to find that the case related to "a review of a movie in a paper that is edited by him, and the film producer had filed a defamation case", and accordingly posted a clarification. Quite like this member put it "not many were even aware until then that defamation was an offense under criminal law".

The important point to note is that, had it not been for the discerning member's immediate clarification, the wrong kind of a message would have gone around, and the undoing of the damage thereafter would have been extremely difficult.

Well, whatever, now that we know it for what it is, I expect Ashwin has also to declare his 'criminal record' every time he applies for renewal of passport, or while applying for a visa, and face the numerous hassles thereof (some bit of a relief for him is that there is no 'khan'  or a 'hasan' anywhere in the name). The fact of the matter is that, in lot many such cases (as perhaps in Ashwin's case too), it is a deliberate tactic used by the powers that be very plainly to harrass people who have brushed them on the wrong side, while standing up for their rights. In fact, the 'discerning' member, who clarified Ashwin's case status, himself went on to cite how there is a criminal case pending against him, for 'rioting', when all he did was to participate in a RWA demonstration against the unauthorised felling of trees by BBMP officials.

That being the case, I expect, a fair section of the population will be having similar cases, largely 'foisted' on them, which will then have to go through the long grind of the judicial process, taking years, before the 'accused' are finally discharged. Imagine the scenario in the case of young professionals who may want to take up assignments, or even higher studies, abroad. Many a career, I am sure, would have got ruined because of such deliberate acts.

Similar has been the plight of artists, movie stars, etc, also, who have been repeatedly harrassed by petty politicians by foisting cases, supposedly for "hurting religious sentiments", blasphemy, etc, etc, in the remotest corners of the country, plainly with a view to harrass them. The more shocking aspect is the readiness with which the police, as also the lower judiciary, admit these, and then keep them going for years on end, thorough adjournments using the flimsiest of excuses, perhaps to force the 'accused' to enter into "negotiated" settlements, which are not easy to come by either.

Well, the higher judiciary in the country is generally seen to be very sensitive, fair, as well as proactive in the way it functions. The incumbent Karnataka High Court Chief Justice in fact went on to "promise that every effort will be made to see that mission of the Indian judiciary of having zero tolerance to delay and arrears of cases is made a reality" (check here) at the time of his swearing in too. One hopes he will very soon bring about a paradigm shift in the handling of such cases, and set an example in Karnataka, using the state's IT prowess, for the rest of the country to follow.

Muralidhar Rao


murali772's picture

The dreaded 66A provision on hold for now

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The Supreme Court today said all states and union territories must follow the Centre's advisory and refrain from arresting people for posting allegedly objectionable comments on social networking sites unless senior police officials have given their nod for it.

The court's directions on arrests under Section 66 A of the IT Act came during a hearing on a plea that challenged the arrest of a human rights activist from Andhra Pradesh who was apprehended last week for posting allegedly defamatory comments against a Congress leader on Facebook.

The petitioner in the case, law student Shreya Singhal, has also challenged the validity of Section 66A and had urged that no arrests should be made under the controversial Section till the Supreme Court decides on her PIL. The court today said all states should abide by the advisory till it decides on the validity of the provision.

For the full report, click here

Going by the examples of misuse of the 66A provision so far, very few of us on PRAJA would be totally safe. As such, it is of serious concern to all of us.

Muralidhar Rao
hemaraj's picture

well if this is implemented

224 users have liked.

well if this is implemented our freedom of speech will be curtailed. and back to square one without knowledge of the members in politics.


murali772's picture

ADR's dis-service

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Seeing this post, Ashwin responded (personally to me) with the following:

What made is worse was the following - in the affidavit, under the broad heading, "Criminal cases", there are 3 categories of disclosures - Complaints, Charges, and Cases. Mine is a COMPLAINT, it has not been heard, and has never led to any CHARGE in the court, and there is no pending CASE going on. However, ADR, which puts out these reports on candidates, added up 1+0+0 and said there was one criminal case against me, which is not true at all. There is only a complaint, and that too in a distant way (I am the 4th respondent in a complaint against the film-maker for defamation, and even her guilt is not proven, let alone the question of my defaming anyone).

I asked ADR to change the record to clarify that there are no cases, only complaints. They refused.

I have always held the view that what ADR is doing is harmful, potentially, to some people. Painting people as bad because they are çrorepatis' is another example. Anyone who has a house in Bangalore is a crorepati. The diatribe against such persons from ADR is especially loathsome, considering that they are themselves invariably crorepatis !! Anyway, such is life.

Ashwin certainly has a point here. I am surprsied about ADR - I had held the members in high esteem all this while.

Muralidhar Rao
kbsyed61's picture


232 users have liked.

ADR - Association for Demorcatic Reforms?



murali772's picture

So, make it happen, Mantri-ji

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"I am absolutely one with the media that section 499 and 500 should be removed from the Indian Penal Code. I would be the first person to recommend that there should not be criminal penal provisions, with regard to defamation. But concurrently, the tort of civil defamation has to emerge. Compensatory damages which are appropriate and adequate should be there to correct a wrong or harm caused," Manish Tewari, Information & Broadcasting minister, quoted in ToI.

- - - And, Times View:
We fully support the proposal to make defamation a civil rather than a criminal offence. Filing a criminal defamation charge costs nothing, and are often used as intimidatory tactics against the media. There are numerous frivolous cases, which serve only to harass the accused and waste the time of the courts. In civil defamation, this is much less likely because the complainant has to deposit a percentage of what is claimed as damages for the case to be taken up by the courts. Hence, there is a cost to filing a case, which automatically gets rid of most frivolous cases.

For the full report, click here

Times View is very true. So, will the minister make it happen? Or, will it be forgotten after the election season?

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