Asaram, Tejpal, Devyani and our attitude to the law

One evening, during my first visit to Taiwan over 15 years back, after my colleague and I had purchased a few Video Games CDs, we asked the salesman where we could get copies of the CDs made. Suddenly, there was total silence in the shop, and everybody turned around and stared at us. The salesman, who looked extremely upset, quietly said, “Sorry, it is illegal. Nobody will copy these CDs. If anybody copies these CDs, he will be put in prison. If you need 2 sets of CDs, please buy 2 sets.”

We bought 2 sets of CDs and left. As we walked back to our hotel, we wondered why the people in the shop were so shocked. Even if it was illegal to copy CDs, it wasn’t such a big matter. The salesman had acted as though we had wanted to commit a murder! Back home in India, it could have been done just the way I would have had documents photocopied: just hand over the CDs to our ‘Office Boy’ with instructions to get 1 copy each!

Later, I realized that copying these CDs was illegal in India as well. But many people seemed to copy CDs and about anything that could be copied. They were vaguely aware about something called copyright, and knew that what they were doing was not legal, but they did it because “Everybody does it!”

During subsequent visits to Taiwan, I observed that the people there were generally much more law-abiding than people (with similar socio-economic-educational backgrounds) in India. I have never come across anybody jumping a red light, or parking wrongly, or not wearing a seat-belt, or speaking on mobile phone while driving, or driving after drinking more than one alcoholic drink. Further, unlike in India where most people complain about how laws/rules are a pain, nobody in Taiwan (at least the people I met) complained about the laws/rules. For example, a few years back, the Government suddenly became very strict about drunken driving. I have not heard a single complaint about this. In fact, everybody I know in Taiwan supported the Government’s new strictness and justified it.

This is almost diametrically opposite to how we generally conduct ourselves in India. We jump red lights quite often, we park wherever we like, we wear seat-belts or helmets only to avoid paying fines, etc., etc.

What is the average Indian’s attitude to the law in India?
1. Laws are made for others, not for me.
2. If it’s possible to break a law without being caught, break it.
3. If, by chance, I’m caught, I can (and should) get away by throwing my weight at the law enforcer, or by bribing him/her.
4. If the law enforcer is foolish enough to ignore my ‘weight’ or my bribe, resulting in a legal issue, engage a good lawyer to represent me.
5. If possible, proclaim that there’s a conspiracy and that I’m being discriminated against because of my gender, religion, caste, language, economic status, educational background, profession, place of residence, whatever. If this is supported by sufficient people, there are good chances that action against me will be dropped.
6. Try to get protection on medical grounds, or by claiming some kind of ‘immunity’ or by getting somebody else to take the rap.

Whether it’s Asaram Bapu, Tarun Tejpal, Devyani Khobragade or anybody else, the sequence of events follows almost the same pattern. Despite all the hue and cry, the US State Department has stated that the charges against Devyani Khobragade will not be dropped. (Details are available in this Firstpost article.) Does this not mean that there is sufficient reason to believe that she has violated US laws? Is this acceptable because “Everybody does it”?

When will we learn to accept that laws are made to be followed, and that law-breakers will be punished according to the law of the land?

Everybody is human

On Tuesday, November 12, 2013, Firstpost reported about a blog post by a woman lawyer, in which she stated that she had been sexually harassed by a retired Supreme Court judge in December 2012 when she was an intern with him.

NDTV.com reported that the Chief Justice of India had announced an inquiry into the allegations by three Supreme Court judges.

In an interview to Legally India, the woman lawyer said, “There’s this thing: a person who is a Supreme Court judge – you don’t expect a Supreme Court judge to harass somebody.”

This statement reminded me of a conversation many years back.

One afternoon, our General Manager, my colleague and I were returning to office after having attended a long meeting at a customer’s factory. All of a sudden, our GM, who was driving, asked, “Gentlemen, I want to ask you something off the record. I’ve heard some rumours about AJ and his (female) secretary. What do you guys know about this? Tell me whatever you know. Don’t hold back anything.” AJ was a senior member of our sales team.

I replied, “I’ve also heard the same rumours, but I don’t think they’re true. Yes, AJ is much friendlier with his secretary than other executives are with theirs, but in all fairness, AJ is much friendlier with all his juniors than other executives are. I’ve found no reason to believe it’s anything more than that.”

My colleague added, “AJ is married and has two kids. He’s a very decent person. I’m sure he won’t have an extramarital affair.”

Our GM replied, “Maybe the rumours are baseless, but it’s not right to say he won’t have an extramarital affair because he’s a very decent person. He may be a very decent person, but he is human. Everybody is human. And any human being can succumb to temptation.”

Everybody is human. This is a simple truth that many of us ignore at our own peril!

Any human being can succumb to temptation. Any human being can indulge in sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape, torture, murder, fraud and other crimes. Education, position, wealth, status, etc. is not necessarily a barrier. Consider the following cases:

Jagriti Singh, a dentist at New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and wife of a MP, was arrested last week for allegedly causing the death of her domestic help and assaulting another.

KPS Gill, former Punjab DGP, recipient of the Padma Shri in 1989, was convicted in 1996 for sexual harassment at a 1988 party.

Asaram Bapu has been accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at his ashram, and is currently under arrest.

Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, the 69th Shankaracharya and head/pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, is under trial in two murder cases.

Rajat Gupta, alumnus of IIT Delhi and Harvard Business School, former Managing Director of McKinsey & Company, Inc. was “convicted in June 2012 on insider trading charges of four criminal felony counts of conspiracy and securities fraud.”

There are many more such examples.

Not all human beings are potential criminals. But, let us all remember:
Everybody is human. And any human being can succumb to temptation.

NOTE:
The message of this blog post is NOT that the aggrieved party should “understand” and hence try to pardon the perpetrator. Any crime and its perpetrator(s) should be dealt with suitably according to the law of the land.
The message of this blog post is: the fact that a person is highly educated and/or well-placed and/or wealthy and/or enjoys a good reputation does NOT mean that person will not succumb to the temptation of committing a crime.
I have issued this clarification in response to Vivek Shesh’s comment.