Out of Order

Innocent until proven guilty for some, not Kanhaiya Kumar?

The maxim that is invoked when convenient.

 |  Out of Order  |  3-minute read |   02-03-2016
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Homo praesumitur bonus donec probetur malus is a widely accepted legal maxim. However, it is understood in social discourse just about as well as one who does not understand latin would appreciate that first sentence. For those who are not toffee-nosed legal-luminaries-who-write-columns-that-no-one-really-gets, Homo praesumitur bonus donec probetur malus translates to "one is innocent until proven guilty" in English, and "LOL what?" in Delhi Police.

This morning, JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested on charges of sedition, was dressed in battle fatigues, a bullet-proof jacket and a helmet that made him look like a member of the anti-riot cell to ensure that a violent mob of lawyers failed to spot him as he went to court for his bail hearing. Unless you've been living under a rock that Arnab Goswami's decibel levels have not been able to penetrate (an unlikely circumstance), you know that over the last two weeks, Kumar (and others) has been attacked by a mob of lawyers outside Patiala House Court for being "anti-national". By his own admission in a deposition, the cops stood around and watched as it happened.

An India Today sting operation revealed that the next move by said lawyers was to go armed with petrol bombs, go to jail and thrash him in his cell and deploy an even more momentous modus operandi to attack his comrades. The discourse in the media (both social and television) has largely been to either silence them (the students, not the lawyers, in case anyone was wondering), send them to the Right-wing's reformatory of choice, Pakistan; and/or kill them in most violent ways possible.

The social discourse has given its verdict: JNU students are guilty.

Earlier in the month, former TERI supremo RK Pachauri, who was charged with sexual assault by many of his colleagues was elevated to the position of executive vice chairman by the organisation. The argument in his favour was that he was innocent until proven guilty by a court of law and should be given the benefit of this most fundamental legal maxim. The aforementioned lawyers (I use this term loosely) who roughed up Kumar for hours, can have no action taken against them by the Bar Council, because they are "innocent until proven guilty".

BJP MLA OP Sharma, who has been caught on camera chasing assaulting CPI leader Ameeque Jamai outside Patiala House Court was taken for a vegetarian (just to be extra clear on Sansakri cred) lunch in Connaught Place by the police, before being detained and released in a span of 15 minutes. He was innocent until proven guilty. Salman Khan spent years earning (and donating) crores and any word against him was met with vile abuse because he was innocent until proven guilty. Shashi Tharoor is innocent until proven guilty in connection with the suspicious death of Sunanda Pushkar. AAP MLA and former law minister Somnath Bharti is innocent until proven guilty in connection with allegations by his wife of assault and cruelty. Retired Justice AK Ganguly is innocent until proven guilty in connection with charges of sexual harassment of an intern.

The social discourse has given its verdict, these privileged men are all innocent until proven otherwise by a court of law.

I leave it to the readers of this piece to do the math and ascertain the discernible difference between those who are largely afforded the advantage of this maxim as against those who are not (yes, I concede there are exceptions to this general observation, but they are few and far between, please do not troll me with them).

I call this the Innocent-Until-Proven-Guilty Paradox. The dichotomy of the legal versus social is lost and the line blurred. A legal principle is tossed around in social discourse with gay abandon to suit the privileged and shape a narrative based on mob mentality. The coercive co-operative termed the collective conscience, if you will.

Writer

Asmita Bakshi Asmita Bakshi @asmitabee

The writer is a law graduate and ball of rage. She tweets @asmitabee and eats everywhere

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