Anna, Osama, Law & Other Musings

I was sitting in my jurisprudence class, contemplating on the fuzzy trappings of what law is and how law ought to be, when a fellow student raised a pertinent point- ‘Anna Hazare says the government ‘should’ pass the Jan Lokpal Bill and bring about a referendum. Who is Anna Hazare to decide what the government should do or not do? Is he the true voice of the people or a majoritarian messiah like the slaughtered Osama?  If we analyse these two men, one cannot but help wonder at the uncanny resemblance between the two. Of course it goes without saying that while the crisp Gandhian espoused a conventionally moral cause, America’s Terminator called for a cause moral in a fundamental way. Anna galvanised the hapless victims of corruption and Osama sparked the disillusioned youth of modernisation to ‘bomb up’.

The revolution or rather a punctuation that Anna brought in the gung-ho lives of people like me and the law, made both of us, sit and ponder upon the fundamental questions on which the machinery of the State runs. The sacrosanct Constitution as a document in itself was challenged by raising the elementary Common Law question-Which is supreme, the Parliament or the People? Like Justice Coke, the Nazarenes of the Indian Legal System gave a thumbs up to the ‘People’. Spirited countrymen (and women) adopted the Gandhian method of fasting as a legitimate mode of seeking a demand from the government. It spurred on the debate of whether the Right to Protest exists in an area of choice or not. Morality and majority compel me to search a precedent to support this stance. The validity of the Prohibitary Orders passed against Anna under Section 144 of the Criminal Code of Procedure was questioned. The illegitimate relationship between the State and the government hampered the freedom of the citizen. In short the labyrinth starts off with if people are supreme, they can topple the policies of the present government by non-violent methods, if they feel, the elected representatives are not doing a decent job. But then, are we sure Civil Society members represent the interests of a 1.21 billion nation and even if they aren’t, should we accept it for the sake of a reference point to begin with.  Will it be too presumptuous to align 2011 along with 1857 and 1947?

The global full-stop Osama brought 10 years ago, led to a global exclamation by the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and with all due respects Pakistan. Of course the lawyer in me was untamed then, but coming to law school made me furiously search on the point where America went wrong and why Osama left his Saudi fortune for the sands of violence and destruction. Laden recognised the loophole in an environment not conducive to individual growth, and exploited it to wage a war against everything not inscribed in the tenets of Islam. Like Anna, he said that he represented the anguished voice of more than a billion people affected by the travesty of western domination and imperialism. Educated and sane men, women and children came forward as soldiers for the salvation of an entire generation of Muslims. He said his methods were legitimate, his aim was practical and his motivation lay in the ‘injustice’ met out to the Palestinians. 9/11 led to a disastrous tussle between Article 2(4) [restraining the use of force against the territorial integrity/sovereignty of any State] and Article 51 [pre-emptive attack in self-defence] of the UN Charter. The twisted interpretation which gave validity to pre-emptive attack on Iraq quizzed the sanctity of the basic credo of international law.

The constant dynamism of Law highlights its ever evolving nature. Cicero’s statement ‘the people’s good is the highest law’ came to play in the case of Anna Hazare, Osama as well as America. To a legal novice like me, law is chemistry’s liquid, will take the shape of the container. You boil it, the evaporation of morality will result it in a Third Reiche like regime and if you freeze it, it condenses to give a banana state like Pakistan.

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