Friday, September 23, 2011

The New Tear - When Morality Trumps Legality

         Justice Shivaraj V. Patil’s resignation as Karnataka Lokayukta is significant in more ways than it meets the eye. Beyond the visible, the subtle unstated narrative of resignation has thrown up newly-hewed dialectics – not entirely familiar to post-independent India.
Less than a month ago, when Anna Hazare fasted at Ramlila, Justice Soumitra Sen paraded his spiel of honesty before the Rajya Sabha. Not long ago Justice Dinakaran assiduously held fast to his “honest” acts against allegations of land grab. The legality of rights and wrongs were sedulously tossed back and forth with quizzical regularity.
Alas, few days down the line after Anna ended his fast, the scenario has altogether changed. Not the narrative of corruption or dishonest acts, but (mercifully) the seeming triumph of morality over legality, of public perception over dogged clinging to power. It shows the triumph of integrity over technicality – where outside public validation has replaced the comfortable cozy old shoe of legality.
Anyone familiar with ways of governance will tell you that obfuscation is the gold standard that the dishonest leverage to their fullest advantage. Legal loopholes are always there, if only you’ve the will and ingenuity, to exploit. It’s there in the past, it’s there in the present, and given the complexity of law and arcane legalese it’s written on to encompass all possible contingencies, shall willy nilly remain even in future. There is no getting away from it.
In our bureaucratic diapers we were told a home truth: you must not only be honest but be seen to be one. Over time though this homily has not only been forgotten but also been given an honorable funeral. The burgeoning smart-alecs in a world peopled by upwardly socially mobile in a new possessive, acquisitive world, quickly made mincemeat of this naïve proposition.
As years merged into decades, the world of smart-alecs found generous patrons. Its number swelled and spilled out in every day lives. Legalese with its lacunae and desiderata continued to bail out desecrator after desecrator. Corruption became the way of life – a modus vivendi. The serial scams of 2010 – CWG, Adarsh, 2G et al – became the apogee of disrepute, the barometer of a corrupt, corrupt society with the powers-that-be rampaging natural resources in every which way.
An Anna who galvanized the nation through his two fasts only captured, restated and brought to fruition the extreme anguish and utter helplessness of the common man against the might of a government that had lost its moorings to serve the people and transmogrified itself into a leviathan. The systematic attempt to insulate the corrupt from public gaze and perpetuate dishonesty through implacable opposition to the well-reasoned Jan Lokpal Bill is so loud in its faux-arguments that it would shame the most shameless.
Mercifully, the Indian public was not taken in with this Goebbelsian propaganda by these vociferous, obnoxious loudmouths. Instead they shushed and tamed these outrageous voices of corrupt unreason. What the Anna fast has done to the Indian society is not the triumph of Jan Lokpal Bill over the Government Lokpal Bill. That would be too preposterous and much too premature a claim to be made now; there are miles and miles of uncertainties to be traversed yet.
What Anna’s August fast has doubtless done is to create an awareness of corruption among people and that it need not be tolerated and suffered any further. True, corruption hasn’t waned. Nor will the Lokpal extirpate and banish corruption and usher in an honest raj. But the ice has been broken. The corrupt has been put on guard; today, even if he indulges in corruption, he knows is on a sticky wicket. He knows things can blow up any time in his face. He’s nervous; the past may catch up. The fulcrum of protection that nothing can ever happen to him in foreseeable future is all too fast disappearing. It’s a tide that’s turning against him and there is no stopping this transparency juggernaut. The die’s been cast.
 Justice Patil’s resignation is a cachet of morality’s triumph over legality. One isn’t quibbling over the allegations made. What it indubitably conveys is this: it is indeed a new tear; where seeming malfeasance is enough rather than the pernickety endless legal battle of a terrible violation; where practice comes before preaching; and where legality crumbles before public perception of rights and wrongs. 

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