Sunday, August 14, 2005

Terrorem populi - the old disease

Justice Gita Mittal (in one of her landmark judgements dealing with compensation for riot victims in the Delhi High Court) has made some lovely (if lengthy) comments, while interpreting Article 21 of the constitution, in the context of communal violence.

"It is the duty of the State to create a climate where the cleavage between members of society belonging to differen faiths, caste and creed are eradicated. The State must act in time so that the precious lives of the people are not destroyed or threatened.... Like disease prevention, the state must take every precaution..."

Violence - group violence especially - is a disease. One we have not learnt to vaccinate our children against. One for which we have no trained doctors. One for which, we are told, there is no cure.

Maybe we just need to begin tackling it on the same scale as we do epidemics, like the plague. And with the same shiver of disgust for administrations that allow disease-inducing filth to linger in their backyards.

However, reading further in the same landmark judgement, I can across this:

"it (the State) cannot escape liability to pay adequate compensation to the family of the person killed during riots as his or her life has been exinguished in clear violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, which mandates that life cannot be taken away except according to the procedure established by law."

Life cannot be taken away... except
according to the procedure established by law.

The law, eh?


Anonymous said...

Doesn't India still have the Capital Punishment?

R. said...

You know what, I read this and I thought this lady could have better phrased her words. But now I realise that she has quoted the article 21 almost verbatim, which says "Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty:
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law"

What she means here is that the state did not follow the law (which deals with crowd/riot control or emergency like situations). And hence it is liable to pay compensation.

The article 21 does sound a bit gruesome, but then again law isn't about pretty statements is it?

Annie Zaidi said...

anup, yes. we still have it.
r., i wish we'd do something about article 21, then. not sure that kind of mandate has my mandate.

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