There is a difference between postponement and ban

Vrinda Grover is a noted lawyer and activist.

Vrinda Grover
Vrinda Grover

Read her earlier comments on the issue here.

Justice is central to our struggle. Legal processes are integral to justice.

Many rights are at stake. The infringement of any right will jeopardise personal liberty and life. Judicial process, rights of all parties and rule of law is crucial to our existence and to our freedoms. I repeat the judicial process is ongoing in the Dec 16 gang rape and murder case. Legal arguments and principles are not a luxury hat we indulge in occasionally. The governments rationale and move of ban is bogus and in very bad faith.

(image: Prakash K Ray)
(image: Prakash K Ray)

Now can we discuss the issues involved.

Many including Editor N Ram,today on NDTV said don’t invoke the pendency of proceedings argument, for the courts take long. How long will we wait? I ask what’s the rush all about. The rush to see a film. Is Viewing a film is more important than allowing the judicial process to conclude without prejudice, interference or obstruction? Can we accord some sanctity to evidence?

So why did we, as civil liberties lawyers seek a restraint on the screening of the Zee TV film on Dec 13 Parliament attack, few days before the judgment was to be pronounced?

In my view the telecast of the “confession” of Afzal Guru, while in police custody, singularly shaped the”collective conscience”that led him to the noose. I think that confession should never ever have been broadcast.

Is there a legal principle that we subscribe to.

The film director L. Udwin has stated in an email that the film was reviewed by the Prosecution team. I spoke with Sr. Adv. Dayan Krishnan who was the SPP in the Trial Court and High Court as well as Sr Adv. Siddharth Luthra, Spl Counsel in Supreme Court. Both have informed me orally and through SMS that they were approached by the film maker and asked to see the film etc. However in accordance with professional ethics they both declined to watch, review or in any other way associate with the film. No Prosecutor of this case has reviewed or given the go ahead to the film maker.

Some have asked why are we deploying regressive legal provisions. The freedom of speech and expression, is not an absolute right. Friends, when we seek to prohibit Praveen Togadia from spewing hatred against Christians in Kandhamal or Muslims elsewhere, we invoke, Sec 153A IPC. In fact anyone who has worked on the issue of communal violence has engaged with Sec.153A IPC I have argued in cases for it to be attracted, to charge the accused with 153A, in cases of communal violence. Similar objections are being made to asserting the law of criminal contempt.

By the same logic, we should never approach the police. For after all the police is the coercive arm of the state. Yet we do. Even the torch bearers of free speech lodge a complaint with the police.

Do women really have the luxury to abandon rule of law. What do we turn to. Khap panchayat or vigilantism ? Why is it that in this conversation we are treating law as a technicality or a minor irritant. Law and judicial process is central to change.

Even as I was writing this post, the very disturbing news of the lynching of an Assamese Muslim rape accused in Nagaland has come in. I read a few posts on fb and the comments it evoked. Many said they had killed a rapist so what’s wrong? So have we all concluded that all rape accused are monsters? And since we are an impatient people. And since it’s very tedious to wait for these long drawn court cases and appellate proceedings to conclude. Why not practice efficient short cuts. Let’s slide into a violent abyss.

Even as we avidly discuss the film, please spare a thought for the legal process, which is central to our conversation on women’s equality .

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