Wednesday, April 3, 2013

...And justice for all ...

...a wonderful film starring a brilliant Al Pacino, is a tale on how the high and mighty may twist the system in their favor and get away even after committing serious crimes.
I am reminded of this movie because of the prevailing debate on plea for pardon on behalf of Sanjay Dutt made by his well wishers. Reference to the movie has not been made to allude to any attempts made by Sanjay Dutt to subvert the process of law but instead to pointedly refer to the ease and advantage the privileged have in such matters over others.
Should Sanjay be pardoned? If yes then what about the others who have been convicted in this case and whom we do not recognize as a celebrity? Is there a class bias?
On principle, if a person is found guilty of a crime then he should be punished. Sanjay has been found guilty and has accordingly (some may disagree) been punished. On principle, once again, if there are sufficient grounds on which a convict may be pardoned, a pardon must apply. Is there enough merit in the plea made on behalf of Sanjay to earn him a pardon? This is debatable.
While the case made out for Sanjay's pardon may be more academic in nature, it does hide in itself other questions which are far removed from any legal technicalities.
So what if Sanjay is a celebrity? Does that make his crime more serious? Should he be denied a pardon only because he is a celebrity? If law must be same and be applied equally to both rich and poor then should mercy or pardon, also a form of justice, be applied any differently?
It is true that if one is rich and famous then one's access to various nooks and corners of the system becomes easy. Add to that the advantage of being a public figure which brings in a lot of support from other known people. A common man does not have the wherewithal to access the right hooks and anchors to take his case forward. Is this limitation borne out of his social standing or is this a limitation of our justice system that it cannot make itself equally accessible to everyone?
Our eyes still measure a person favorably if he is from an elite class. We somehow are more than willing to give him the benefit of doubt. This leniency is class driven despite our society having made an avowed espousal of causes for the downtrodden. The debate therefore seems to originate from a subliminal effort to redeem ourselves of this shortcoming. Also prevailing upon this might be the climate in which the verdict has come. With the spotlight these days on the big-wigs and their shenanigans, the intrinsic leniency has ceded some space to a growing cynicism towards the rich and famous. Sanjay Dutt, therefore, may have secretly wished that the verdict could have come some five years early when the cupboards of these accused money-pots, with all the skeletons inside, were still locked and secured. But all said and done one mustn't be unfair in order to seem fair. If he deserves a pardon then let him have it.