Millennium Post

Equality before law is still a pipe dream

The episode of Asaram Bapu has once again exposed our system, which is claimed to be based on the philosophy of equality. Equality, liberty and fraternity are the three pillars on which a democratic system is founded. We have accepted this philosophy and our Constitution tells in explicit term that all are equal before law and the state will not make differentiation among its citizens on the basis of religion, caste, color, language, sex and region.  But to achieve the ideal of equality we have yet miles to go.

Two complains of sexual assault were filed almost at the same time. One was against Asaram Bapu, who had allegedly outraged the modesty of a minor girl, who happened to be his disciple and a student of a school run by him. According to the allegation, he continued his barbaric act of sexual exploration of the girl for an hour in his hut during the night and her parents were made to believe that Bapu was doing some rituals to ward off the evil spirits hounding the girl. This incident happened in Jodhpur of Rajasthan.

The second incident was reported from Mumbai. A photo journalist had been gang raped at an isolated place of that city. The journalist had gone there to have some photos of the place along with her colleague under the assignment for the life style magazine, she was working for. The rapists were strangers to the girl and her colleague. In his report, her colleague even could not name the rapists, because he did not know their name. The addresses of rapists were even known. In spite of being in dark at the time of writing the FIR, Mumbai Police arrested all the alleged culprits within 72 hours. The first arrest was made only after a few hours of filing the FIR. The police chased one of victims and arrested him in the National capital Delhi.

What we saw in the second incident was promptness of the police to arrest the culprit. In the first incident, in which Asaram Bapu was involved saw the police adopting a quite different attitude.  The place of reported crime was Jodhpur and the crime was reported in Delhi after 5 days of incident. Perhaps parents wanted to have some words with Asaram over what he has done to their daughters, that is why they had come to Delhi to meet him. He denied to meet the parents of the girl and they lodged their complaints in the National Capital itself. Delhi police, after filing complaint transferred it to Jodhpur Police. The FIR was recorded on 20th of August in Delhi and it was forwarded to Jodhpur Police of the next day. It was a named FIR. Jodhpur police knew, who was the alleged culprit. The first step of the police should have been to take Asaram into custody for interrogation. In any rape case, the first thing the police do is to arrest the culprit.  But, the police failed in its duty to do the needful. It is true that the person involved was a public figure known not only nationally, but also internationally. It is said that he has crores of followers But does it matter for our democratic system, which boasts to have the principle of equality, where all people are said to be equal before law? If police, in one case, arrests the unknown culprits, why the police of another place fails to do the same thing? Obviously, system does not work in the same manner in all cases.

Our Constitution might have enjoined the State not to discriminate its citizen, while applying the law, but the people, who are running the system, have their own yardsticks to decide how to treat a case before them. The Chief Minister of Rajasthan came to rescue Asaram and announced that he would be arrested only after the investigation. He forgot to remember that in such cases, custodial interrogation is part of the investigation. Police cannot complete its investigation without interrogating the alleged culprit.  It was clear that the CM of Rajasthan came as a savior of Asaram. It is no secret that Asaram is a very powerful person. He runs over 400 Ashrams all over India and is said to be commanding wealth and property of around Rs 5000 crores. The girl and her family were left to be pressurized and blackmailed by Asaram. It is was a deliberate attempt to give ample time to Bapu to pressurize the girl to withdraw the case. It is another matter that girl’s family could not be pressurized. The Police also gave ample time to Asaram to go underground. But it was due to the efforts of the vigilant media that Asaram could not escape. Electronic media kept track of his whereabouts constantly and it helped the Police to arrest him.

Though, Asaram had been arrested and the police interrogated him, but the question still remains as to why the system works differently for different people? Four of the five alleged rapists of the Mumbai gang rape were Muslims. Different yardsticks of Police prompted the Muslims to raise the question that was it not the discrimination on the basis of religion, though it was a faulty question. Off course there was discrimination, but it was not based on religion, but on the different status of the culprits in our power structure of the country.

In the meanwhile an alleged Indian Mujahidden operative named Yasin Bhatkal was arrested from Indo Nepal boarder and a Muslim leader of Samajvadi Party Kamal Fauqui raised the issue of his religious identity. He wondered whether Bhatkal was arrested because of being a Muslim or because of being a terrorist. He was not explicit in his statement, but he seemed to be motivated by the non arrest of Asaram despite being involved in a grave crime of sexually exploiting a minor girl.

We are witnessing the rise of crime of almost all hues. The social structure, which used to control some kinds of crimes is breaking down because of the migration of people from rural to urban areas. This is one of the reasons of increase in crime. We cannot prevent this migration and the break up of the traditional social structure. But the different yardsticks for different people in applying the law is yet another potent reason, which is creating the disbelief of a average people in the system. This must be checked. Law should be seen to apply to all with discrimination on the basis of status of person. (IPA Service)

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