Out of Order

Spare the law Vinod Mehta, you should've acted on those rumours

Justice denied in the office space doesn't afford the same excuses as a dawdling legal system.

 |  Out of Order  |  4-minute read |   27-12-2014
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The legal system in India is unapologetically slow. Trials go on for close to ten, twelve, twenty, and if you go by the recent murder conviction in the LN Mishra case, even 40 years. Let's be honest, this is justice denied. But to be able to bring about any kind of change within the ineffective legal system is not just a Herculean task, it is an impossible one.

This is for a host of reasons. For starters, those whose doors one would knock to implement any change are rarely affected by the perils of a dawdling, unjust framework. Consider a certain head of a certain political party, who is not only an under-trial for serious charges of murder, but is basically running the show while it happens. Then there is that other politician from Bihar, whose scams amounted to a sum close to Rs 1,000 crores of public money - he was away for a questionably brief period before he was out on bail and making sweeping statements to rescue us from the evils of the party of his adversary, the aforementioned under-trial. But this is a farce for another time.

The inability to change a flawed system is another story. The reasons for the long drawn out process is that the courts are overburdened and they function according to procedures which are both complex and large in number. And these are only the most common excuses.

On a related note, victims of rape and sexual assault have it even tougher. Filing an FIR comes with the fear of another assault, sitting for years through proceedings is painfully sexist and society is equally unforgiving. Rape and sexual assault is a serious problem in this country. They are largely unreported. Heck, marital rape is even permissible by law (you know, because, culture).

Thank you for reading through this tirade of the bleeding obvious. Honestly, if I had a rupee for each time I heard this from lawyers, laypersons and others involved, I'd make a million quicker than any (ordinary) under-trial is granted bail. We can now begin the discussion on current affairs.

Today, there was a snapshot going around of the much talked about book by "veteran journalist" Vinod Mehta, in which he speaks about his friend, and now under trial for rape, Tarun Tejpal. He speaks of him, though, as his employee in the capacity of his deputy editor in Outlook.

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Mehta claims he got a "whiff" of Tejpal's "trouser difficulty" when the latter was working under him and was "known to use his official position to hit on interns and juniors for both consensual and presumably non-consensual carnal favours". Charming prose for such a terrifying confession. Writing abilities - 1, position of authority - 0. This is further iterated when Mehta says that he completely ignored - let me have a go at this inimitable turn of phrase - the said aromas wafting into his official cauldron, since they weren't peppered with any official complaint.

The reason for my aggravated description of the legal process is that an office space does not function like, or within that framework. It functions instead, on the principles of basic humanity and decency. If a person, and a person with the authority of the author of this novel, gets word of such a heinous act being committed under his leadership, he has the ability to get it checked out. An office space is not restricted by the extensive rules and statutes like the Criminal Procedure Code or the one for Civil Procedure. If a human being thus turns a blind eye here, who else can one blame aside from the human being himself.

Let's be clear here, this isn't some kind of sermon I am offering to someone in a senior position, nor do I expect that every time a boss gets a "whiff" of one's enticing "sexual aura" that they should be fired. But I would, as a woman, appreciate if the person in question was at least checked out. And as a junior in any company, there is a constant fear of pissing off people with authority. For us, it's a constant struggle between keeping our jobs and tossing aside all future prospects from the fear that a "complaint" could go horrendously wrong. And that the higher authorities are aware of the plight of voiceless juniors, and all that is done about this is to publish them in honest tomes with quick wit and corroborative quotes, only heightens this fear.

So, yes, the legal system is slow and unjust. And justice is often denied. But we expect that at least humanity could work faster than that. And I'm not saying convict and banish based on hearsay, but at least investigate and question.

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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