Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Punishments and pardons


It is a good thing that they let Balakrishna Pillai out of jail. It was an immensely useful lesson for the people of Kerala. Knowledge level of the people was increased manyfolds, that was the most important benefit. People were freed of the superstition that convicted criminals have to spend the entire prison term behind bars. If you have clout over a party or government you can commit any crime without fear of prison. You commit the crime and the party and govt will take care of reducing the term and letting you out.

It also delivered the people of some constitutional misconceptions about judges and judiciary. With gowns and all, the judiciary might look intimidating, but it can only pronounce a verdict and award a punishment, it doesn't verify whether the guy is enjoying his vacation. Don't get carried away by the term 'life imprisonment' –a dictionary might give you meanings like lifelong incarceration, but those dictionary writers are ignorant of the passage of time. These days a convict undergoing life imprisonment spend five or six years at most behind bars. One year on parole, one year in hospital and if you conduct something there's concessions for good conduct as well.

If this is the meaning of life imprisonment you can easily guess what would rigorous imprisonment mean. Many people are under the impression that Balakrishna Pillai is punished in a corruption case. Nonsense! There's no mention of corruption in the judgment, it is an award for the way he completed Edamalayar Project and solved power and irrigation problems of Kerala! So, there is no need to spent so many days in jail at all. He only spent his time in a five star hospital while he could have done the same in a five star hotel.

Those who blame UDF govt of wrongdoing don't understand one thing …the UDF govt doesn't indulge in arbitrary wrong doing. They would first dig out all the archaic files and verify how many times the same wrong was committed by the LDF govt and then only proceed to fulfill their quota of wrong doings. The responsibility of reducing sentences of prisoners was introduced
by the first cabinet in Kerala. The judiciary believes in the Gita dictum 'ma phaleshu kadachana' (Do your duty, don't let your actions hinge on the outcome) – they pronounce the judgment and don't care a hoot whether the convict is living in his cell or at his home. Judiciary is not the custodian of prisons, that is a minister's occupation. Even convicted murderers get reduction (why, convicts committing murder inside the prison were given concession for good conduct), compared to them Pillai is no big deal.

Former home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has stated in the house that his govt had not discriminated against anybody. The same kind of concessions were given to even RSS and Congress men jailed for killing CPM comrades. If the statistics reveal that the CPM convicts benefited more in the deal, it is not their fault –in the prison constituency they have an absolute majority.

Meanwhile, another misunderstanding has crept into the public mind that Pillai was released on Nov 1, on the state's happy birth day. It is not correct, technically he became a free bird the day he was shifted to the hospital. Not only de facto, but de jure as well. People realized their mistake only after Com. Achuthanandan pronounced his verdict. Even he hadn't realized it at the time. As per the law, when a convict is shifted to a hospital the govt should have notified the hospital ward as prison
cell. Alas, in their hurry to shift Pillai to hospital the over worked govt machinery forgot to observe the legality. Achuthanandan has petitioned the court to consider Pillai as a free bird the day he was taken to hospital, with retrospective effect.

I t is not sure whether the court would order Pillai to go back to his missing days.