In Today's India, the Principles of Justice Don't Apply Universally

As long as one is ideologically on the right side, there is no saying what one can get away with.

In any proper, law-abiding democracy, a convict remains in jail till the end of their term. And someone accused of a heinous crime faces, at the very least, social opprobrium, while the police conducts its investigation. A legislator accused of some malfeasance would have to answer questions from their constituents.

But in New India, these crimes and misdemeanours are of no consequence. The perpetrators and the accused are welcomed back into society with little shame or embarrassment. In fact, they are hailed and celebrated. These are our new heroes, our role models, who can get away with anything.

The recent case of Madal Virupakshappa, a BJP MLA in Karnataka, who was booked in a bribery case when the Lokayukta found Rs 8 crore in unaccounted cash in his home, is a fine example how things work now. The money was found in a raid after his son Prashanth Madal, an employee of a government body, was caught red-handed accepting a bribe of Rs 40 lakh.

The father promptly vanished as the police hunted for him. A few days later, after obtaining bail from the courts, he surfaced, saying that he had been at his house all along. His supporters then took him out in a triumphal procession through his town, the MLA cheerfully waving to them from an open car.

And why shouldn’t he? As he said somewhat brazenly, where he came from, Rs 8 crore was hardly a huge amount, so what was the fuss about?

Last August, when the Gujarat government, in its wisdom, released 11 men convicts while they were serving a life sentence, they were garlanded by the local VHP unit. These men were in jail for raping Bilkis Bano and killing 14 others in Gujarat in 2002. This undermines the sanctity of a court conviction, but more than that, it tells us that there will be no price to pay for a horrendous crime, as long as the victim belongs to a minority community that has been reduced to second class status.

Nor is this an exception. Five years ago, Jayant Sinha, then a minister in the Modi government, garlanded eight men who had been convicted of lynching a man, but had secured bail from a higher court.

Before he joined politics, he had the kind of CV that aspirational Indian parents crave for their children ― IIT, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, McKinsey ― and was quickly made a minister in the Union government. In the circles he would have moved in, his act would have been considered uncivilised, but he did it anyway.

But then, hate speech did not stop Anurag Thakur from becoming a minister, or Tejasvi Surya from remaining an MP despite his communal statements, like his party colleague Pragya Singh Thakur, MP, accused in the 2008 Malegaon bombings.

Being part of the Hindutva stream, one way or the other, seems to insulate any perpetrator from the due process of law. Convicts can be released and an accused can carry on with life without fear of the law catching up. The most incendiary statements can be made, as long as they are aimed at minorities. There is no cost ― in fact, there could be a reward.

What is even more shocking is that there is no outcry from citizens. Have Indians become so inured that they just take it in their stride?

The message to law abiding citizens is that the law is malleable, and the principles of justice are not just flexible, they simply don’t apply universally. As long as one is ideologically on the right side, there is no saying what one can get away with.