Rule of Law – Just words????

Rule of law : “The authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; (hence) the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes”

Hildy : Hey Celine, how have you been?

Celine : I am fine Hildy. How have you been? It’s weird that you initiate a conversation for a change?

Hildy : Nothing that I am curious to get your opinion on some important stuff.

Celine : Here comes, yet another surprise. Tell me what you have in your mind

H : Did you come across the recent police brutalities? One in US and in India

C : Yeah, the inhumane acts by the police force in two different parts of the world

H : What do you think of these? How come police, a force created to maintain law and order in society, behave in such barbaric manner?

C : I am not a sociologist or a expert on police brutalities, yet I will place my views before you.

H : I know you’re neither of those. Go on, tell me.

C: I think it is coming out of lack of understanding the police’s role in society. They think that just because they are law enforcers, they can take their laws in their own hands without any fear of repercussions. The other branches of government use the police force to their liking. So police force thinks that they can get away with their atrocities.

H : Have you ever felt comfortable talking to a police person?

C: It hardly happens. Even when you are on the right side of the law, there seems to be some anxiety when we talk to police personnel

H : Have you ever thought why most of us change our behavior in presence of police?

C: I believe it has to do with how society conditions us. The movies portraying strong police person, taking law into his/her hands become massive hits. Worse still, encounter movies are celebrated and as a result encounters are normalized. People think that only those who commit any wrong, will be killed in encounters. Worst of all is that when a heart wrenching crime such as rape or rape+brutal murder happens, people start baying for the perpetrators blood that police get a free rein in staging encounter deaths. Public start celebrating those encounters, without even thinking for a minute that they might end up in a situation , where police wouldn’t blink an eye lid to carry out an encounter murder of the very people, who supported encounter in earlier instance.

H : In such cases, shouldn’t Human Rights council carry out actions against perpetrators of encounters/custodial deaths?

C : Yeah they might investigate, but by the time they do, the cases might have faded away from public’s imagination. The movies (here, here,) play another dreaded role in portraying the Human Rights activists as people standing in way of delivering justice & the police protagonist taking law into his own hands (here, here). There are movies that say out the silent part loud with dialogues such as “When terrorism is instantaneous, why not justice be so”. There are countless instances of movies showing police’s disregard for Human Rights. I am not blaming movies for every ill of police brutalities, but movies do play a significant role in normalizing the police’s illegal actions.

H : Then the fancy term such as “Rule of law” is merely on paper, isn’t it?

C : A good question. Glen Greenwald often says that government’s usual ploy is to carry out the illegal acts such as detention camps (Abu Gharib), solitary confinements, Shoot outs, drone strikes & etc, against the perpetrators, who are hugely accepted/portrayed in the society as evils, so justification of the government’s acts would readily be accepted by the larger public. Most people, who hardly have time to deal with their day to day troubles, think that the justice is served quickly and move on with their lives. The Rule of Law, once violated in such instances, give police/government free reins to carry out incessantly such unlawful actions.

H : Is there a power angle to these unlawful activities?

C: Evidently, the very police who carries out such actions against commoners, won’t raise a finger against powerful figures, no matter how heinous their crime is. Power comes in various forms such as caste, race, political power, economical power, social status etc

H: So, how do we move forward as a society?

C : There are no straightforward answers or solutions. People should be made to understand the basic concepts of Rule of Law. They must realize that the judiciary/police/executive are there to apply law equally to all. The tenet of “No one is above law” must be taught in schools, colleges & societies. And importantly movies that celebrate encounters, custodial deaths must be banned. Directors of movies must be warned once and when they do it for second time, they must be banned from making movies. Human Rights activists role must be known to the larger public.

H : Don’t you think all these are Utopian plans? Also the idea of banning movies, isn’t that taking this a step too far?

C: Yes, these might seem as Utopian ideas. Only when we work towards making a Utopian society, will our society end up in a better place than where we are right now. About your argument on banning movie, I believe there are certain limitations to Freedom of Expression. Do we see movies celebrating Holocaust or different genocides carried out? Similarly if our society needs to go to a better place, we should be very conscious of kinds of arts we create in our society.

H : I think we have come to some sort of agreement for the first time, didn’t we?

C : Yeah it’s surprising to me as well.

H : I am sure you have some quote to end this discussion, don’t you?

C: Dr B.R Ambedkar, who gave Indian constitution, presciently said “I feel that the constitution is workable, it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together both in peacetime and in wartime. Indeed, if I may say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is that Man was vile.” – Another one on constitution by Edward Kennedy “The Constitution does not just protect those whose views we share; it also protects those with whose views we disagree”

H : Thanks for your views.

Some Useful Links

Short intro Rule of Law :

Glenn Greenwald on Rule of Law :

Mr. Jayaranjan on recent police Brutality :

Separation of powers :

Advocate P.Selvi on Extra Judicial Killings :

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