Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Indian Courts - Gere'd For Change

Here's an aspect of the Gere drama that I haven't seen covered anywhere. What can be done to prevent a bigoted or incompetent or just plain publicity hungry judicial official among thousands in one part of India from hassling celebrities in any other part of the country?

When protests and demonstrations were staged following Richard Gere's playfully tangling with Shilpa Shetty at an AIDs awareness gathering, I was embarassed as an Indian but not particularly bothered. After all there will always be the ultra conservatives and whackos in a country of a billion plus. Their right to free speech even if distasteful to me and contrary to majority view is an affirmation of our democratic values.

But it is very different when one magistrate (or subordinate judge) sitting in Jaipur issues arrest warrants and initiates proceedings for something that occurred in Delhi. The merits of the action aside just because media footage is aired in some place should not give the local judiciary the authority to summon or proceed against people who were never within their physical jurisdiction. For interstate occurrences there should be a clear single jurisdiction court. That way you need to only depend on the good sense and judgement of that court instead of being hostage to the whims or shenanigans of any one of the thousands of courts.

The required long term remedy needs legislative action by Parliament perhaps in consultation with the Judiciary and they should get to it. They can include some other pressing reforms like rolling back this rash of public interest litigation into this effort - but that's for a separate discussion.

Meanwhile, the additional chief judicial magistrate who acted against Gere and Shetty is Dinesh Gupta who has since been transferred out of Jaipur to a small little town.

That is a good step but - as we were repeatedly told in government while I was part of it - a transfer should not be taken as any punishment. There should be some official proceedings to discipline this judge and affect his career and service records, That will deter similar actions by others. But the judiciary tends to be protective of its own and I wouldn't hold my breath on this happening.

The superior courts should also take "suo motto" (on their own) notice and quash the groundless proceedings without requiring the defendants to jump through further procedural hoops.


david mcmahon said...

Nope, I'm not going to cross swords with Anita!

Yes, you can call me chicken.

Sursum Corda


goraroy said...

Congrats Dimpy,for starting the blog - may it b(l)oom and prosper !!

As regards, the Gere & Shetty controversy, all I'd like to add at the moment is that for you Indians who have been living abroad for a while, this kind of bloopers by judicial authorities might be shaking your consciences and interest a bit. That's because you are used to a very advanced, proactive and fair judicial system out there. Here in India, we barely read these news items because they are so widespread and happening all the time !!

On the one hand the judicial system (particularly the lower ones at the Tehsil, City & magisterial levels)is rotten. On the other, I would daresay that but for the so-called 'judicial activism' happening over the past 5 years or so, where the High Courts and Supreme Court are active participants, the even-more rotten set of people, the politicians, would have by now, completely chewed up the country !!! In fact, these days there is a raging battle going on between the Legislature and the judiciary, with ALL political parties across the board, trying to rein in the 'rampant' judiciary.

Also, it's only on the intervention of the judiciary that high profile "injustices" such as the Jessica Lal case and the Alex Perriera (hit-and-run with seven dead in Mumbai), have been sought to be set right, where all other arms of Governance had completely capitulated to influence and money power.

Another role to be examined in the context of all this is that of the MEDIA. In their naked hunger for NEWS, I feel that at present, if there was a prize for the "MOST IRRESPONSIBLE, THE MOST MERCENARY and the MOST UNSCRUPLOUS", our immature Fourth Estate would take the PRIZE ahead of the politicians, judiciary or the Administration.

Much of the hype and hoopla that you get all excited about sitting accross seven seas, is the creation of the Media... and believe me, they are SHITTY !!
Nowadays, Rakhi Sawant is more newsy than our home-grown Indian lady in space !!

It's not the Ramnath Goenkas and M V Kamaths and other past doyens of journalism who rule what gets publicised in India. It's the Chandan Mitras and Swapan Dasguptas and their ilk who rule. And believe me they are all politicians and purchaseable themselves. Fifteen years back it used to be a drink of rum that could buy them; now it's upwards of a Crore of Rupees !!!

Cheers for India and God Bless our country on the 150th year of the 1857 First War of Independence.

New Delhi 11th May, 2007

kenrod said...

India should not be ruled by the Taliban mentality where there is no tolerence for diversity. At the least don't be hypocritical and allow kissing in Western and even some Indian movies, and, on the other hand send out an arrest warrant for Richard Gere for pecks on the cheek. As Justice Stewart said,"I'll know pornography when I see it." I've seen the Gere-Shetty video and it is not porn. So don't make a mountain out of a molehill.

Sandip Madan said...

David, I never called you a chicken, or wished you to be vanquished in swordplay with Anita.

Kenrod, I agree with all you said and am sorry that our lunatic fringe and small minority of moral police caused India as a whole to be prtrayed this way.

Gora, thanks for a lengthy contribution. I'm glad if the Legislature is taking notice of judicial incursions into the other branches of government. Higher judicial intervention in the Jessica Lal criminal case was entirely warranted, praiseworthy and well within the bounds of judicial oversight. But this rash of public interest litigations (PIL) and orders is different.

Yes, I have seen my share of a corrupt judiciary and press that blatantly falsified news. Still when I seethed at this many years ago in the IAS one of my good friends and seniors Avay mentioned how much better it was to have a separation of powers with an independent judiciary and a free press, than the alternative of a monolithic and unchecked Executive.

I'm glad he helped me see that though the action against that magistrate in the Gere case can be taken entirely in this existing democratic framework.

kenrod said...

Does anyone know if Shetty filed charges against Gere? If she didn't the judge has no right to file an arrest warrant, because even if you disagree with the kiss it isn't illegal unless you live under the Taliban rule.

Sandip Madan said...


Shetty did not mind at all and feels bad that Gere was dragged into this. In fact that magistrate started proceeding against her for not objecting to his behavior and being party to the obscenity. So yes, this whole thing was ridiculous.

Btw, Kenrod, thanks for your contributions - if you are fine with it maybe you can introduce yourself to me on my email address:
Cheers, Sandip

Anonymous said...

In his satire, "A Modest Proposal" Swift suggests that the Irish eat their own children to stave off the famine that the English hegemony had created.

A modest proposal for Shetty. Wear a burkha and subject yourself to lashes by a mullah. For Gere: Give up your fight for Tibet, hold up Mao's Red book in the public square and burn all your movies. This is a tempest in a teapot. What bother me is that the controversy won't die and smells of xenophobia.