A woman accused in a human trafficking case, presented in front of the magistrate, peed in the courtroom! The news of the incident that questions the very human conscience comes from the ‘most civilized Kerala’ followed by another news about a child urinated and defecated in the classroom when he was detained in the classroom by a teacher. The Child Rights Commission has intervened in the latter incident, however, I am not sure if the woman carrying her 4-year old daughter who had to pee in the courtroom could draw any attention from the authorities or from those thousands of human rights activists across the world. Nevertheless, we must say that she was peeing upon the very judicial system of the country for its frivolity, for she was even denied her right for fulfilling the fundamental needs of her body even while presented in the temple of justice.
The notorious Munambam Human Trafficking Case evolves the attempt to smuggle approximately 100 people including women and children from the Munamban Coast on January 12 in a boat to Australia. The alleged illegal emigration came to light when a few bags filled with dry food, soft drinks and clothes were recovered from Munambam and Cherai of Kerala and the same has invited international attention too. Illegal emigration is one among the grave social issues faced by developed countries today; however destitute people from across the world are ready to take up any challenges to escape from the miseries they face in their home countries. The police have so far arrested three key suspects in the case along with a number of people including women and children who were being smuggled to Australia.
As framed by the Supreme Court of India, there are stringent rules to be followed while arresting an individual though we are not sure how far the guidelines are followed to ensure fair treatment while a person is taken into the custody of the police department. There are surplus rules, regulations, guidelines etc. in India to protect its citizen fair treatment, but it is catastrophic to note that rarely these principles come for the rescue of common men in the country. The incident of the lady who had to pee in the courtroom must be an instance of how ruthless the Indian system still treats those accused, who are often denied even their fundamental rights. They are still accused and even if they are punished they could undergo a jail-term to mark their return to normal life. ‘To err is human’, but I also understand that to forgive is not the business of the court of law, but can definitely be just while treating those accused!
It is hard to identify those innocent who are spending their days in the jails in India and it is an average figure when we say two third of them are under trials. As per the most recent data available from the government, more than 22 million cases are currently pending in India’s district courts, six million of those have lasted longer than five years, 4.5 million cases are waiting to be heard in the high courts and more than 60,000 in the supreme court. The statement says that these figures are further increasing. It is the true face of Indian judicial system that a person, because of the wealth he possesses, gets bail from a higher court in just 4 hours after identified as the culprit by lowercourt, but those thousands of poor undertrials have served more than the likely jail term they might attract, if found guilty.
I do not want to underestimate the seriousness of a ‘crime’ which is often conditional nor would I condemn solely on any particular system for the crime he or she has committed. If everyone in the world would be caught for the mistakes they have committed in their lives, our prisons wouldn’t be sufficient to accommodate them all! Nevertheless, the incident happened in the courtroom draws our attention to a few crucial questions – What makes one a so-called criminal, how is he/she identified as a criminal by the police department or the very method of investigation, trials in a court that punish or free the person and finally the life of the individual after being punished or freed up by the court of law.
Education, more than enlightening an individual, is often a process of taming of a human being to fit into a particular system of governance. It is often about fostering the qualities of thoughtfulness, patience, value integration etc. We must say that if a person denied the right of education -for whatever the reason could be- tend to follow the raw instincts. If we carefully analyse we could see that most of the so-called criminals are from poor educational or cultural backgrounds. Most of the crimes are results of sudden emotional outbursts that could be prevented if the accused had the necessary education to handle the situation! Who is responsible here? Perhaps by the very sight of a criminal, a nation should feel humiliated, for it is ultimately the failure of a system that gives birth to a criminal.
The method of scientific investigation incorporating the knowledge of human psychology is still in its primordial stage in India where the police departments in most of the states use primitive methods in their investigation. There are a number of cases where the arrested is made to confess who finds his/her life in danger and finally end up with a lifetime within the darkness of a jail. Here too, there are a number of guidelines issued by the court of law, but the news that pours in from around us reminds us that everything was in vain! The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in its report says that a total of 1,674 custodial deaths, including 1,530 deaths in judicial custody and 144 deaths in police custody, took place from 1 April 2017 to 28 February 2018. On average, there were about five custodial deaths per day during 1 April 2017 and 28 February 2018 in India. This is just the statistics of just two years and the total number of such incidents since independence could bring us a massive figure!
“Let a hundred guilty be acquitted, but one innocent should not be convicted” – is a cliché! It is considering the circumstantial evidence, statements of witnesses etc. a person is convicted or freed. In a society that is governed by money and power, undoubtedly, there is no scarcity of the so-called evidence and witnesses. While the truth is beyond the available evidence and witnesses, how is justice guaranteed for those helpless? Well, we could make ourselves comfortable saying that the final verdict has to be by God or maybe he/she will be rewarded by the heavens, but it is all about an individual who is chanced to be born here only once. It is more painful to see the rich, even if found guilty for lethal crimes, enjoy boundless freedom because of the ‘lack of evidence’!
Journalism is probably in its most rotten form in India. In their attempt to sensationalise and to further improve ranking they compete with each other to embellish the stories where even before a person is convicted he/she is stamped as a criminal in front of the world. It is not just unfortunate but dreadful to see a person remains a criminal even after he/she is freed after trials. Our society is still immature to accept a converted human being, even if after a person manages to complete the jail – term remains a criminal rest of his life, often the same takes him/her back to jail for another offence. While most of the prisons across the country take necessary steps for the rehabilitation of inmates, it is the perception of the society that has to be changed first.
By hearing the news of the woman who peed in the courtroom, we must bend our head with utmost shame, for she is one among those human being in India who are denied their fundamental rights. Today, when I scribble this, I can see those millions of innocent people in Indian jails, I can feel the hearts of those who are counting their days in prisons for a verdict, I can see those human being who by circumstances are known as criminals! Yet the picture of a woman, who stands helpless in the courtroom holding her little daughter close to her bosom, brings tears to my eyes! All that she wanted could be a life devoid of miseries, though she failed to know that happiness and sorrow are just mirages being reflected upon the sands on the earth!
Sitting somewhere in the darkest corner of the prison she must be saying this to herself – “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!” ‘My fault, my fault, my most grievous fault!’ And the fault is that I am born here as a human being!