In the last few days ‘Heroes’ of two countries had been in news for the wrong reasons or should I say found themselves on the wrong side of the ‘Law’. Both were very popular national icons, both had their careers on the line and both had millions if not billions of rupees/dollars riding on them. What set them apart was the way they handled the crises and the way their fans reacted to their fallen heroes.
The Australian cricket squad, the tallest present day cricket players – the captain of their team, Steve Smith, arguably the most popular and entertaining batsman and vice captain David Warner and the bowler Cameron Bancroft were caught in a ball tampering scandal. They were caught in the act on camera, well at least the bowler Bancroft was, Warner was understood to be party to it or knew about it and Smith although he personally claimed to be unaware of it was taken to be responsible for it. The investigation was quick to examine the evidence and pronounce the judgement of banning all three from international cricket for a year. The three stars, fallen from grace apologized to their fans, cried on national television, were obviously worried about their future but not once did they challenge the punishment handed out to them. Their fan’s first reaction was that of shock and anger. Shock, because these cricketers were their idols, the sporting heroes they looked up to and anger because they had been betrayed by them. There must have been the emotion of sadness too but no one tried to justify their actions, make excuses for them. There may have been different opinions about the quantum of the punishment handed out to them but no one thought that there was a way other than the prescribed punishment.
The other set of heroes or stars in the news was from our very own film industry, namely, Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam, and Sonali who appeared for the verdict of the twenty year old Black Buck poaching case in Jodhpur. The five (plus Satish Shah, who’s no more and the driver of the vehicle ) were involved in the shooting of a protected ‘endangered’ black buck species of deer near Jodhpur. There were eye witnesses to the incident, other than the accused superstars of the Indian film industry, there was the presence of weapons used for the act, and of course there were the dead black bucks ! I would say if someone is caught in the act of a crime (purposeful or inadvertent) it is but natural to deny it or try to make all efforts to save one self from a frenzied mob or group. But isn’t twenty years enough time for some sense of regret and remorse to set in and that too in not one but five well to do, educated , aware members of a society. All power, all brains, all influence and all the money at disposal was used to falsify every available evidence and subvert the delivery of justice for twenty years. Not one of them could muster the courage to tell the truth? Not one of them had enough remorse to plead guilty of being a party to the unlawful activity? Even finally when the verdict came it was immediately challenged in the next higher court !! Now coming to the fans, the fans were sad that their hero has been jailed. The fans were not disappointed or anguished by the fact that their hero has committed an unlawful act ! The fans were unanimous in their belief that the verdict is too harsh and their hero should appeal in higher court to get relief. The irony is that it is a taken fact that the higher court will give relief.
The fans came up with varied reasons explaining why their superstars should not be punished. ‘Why after twenty years ?’ Well, if the stars were ‘Tiger’ enough to accept their mistakes in the first instance and had not used all their might to subvert the case it would not have taken so long. ‘The superstars are good human beings and do enough philanthropic work’, law can’t be floundered or a crime can’t go unpunished just because the criminal does some charity. Charity done with a purpose in mind is truly not considered a charity at all. The judge may use his discretion and show proportional leniency but that should not come in the way of administration of equanimous justice.
Why the difference in the two responses? One expects the answer to this question to be that our judicial system is not reliable and robust ! But who or what subverts the system? It is not the poor and the un-influential who think that they are above the law. Is it not that those who should be upholders of the law undermine it the most ? The Australian players had the insight that what they did was wrong and knew that the only logical course forward was accepting the punishment handed out to them. On the contrary, the Indian film stars perhaps just considered themselves unlucky to have been caught doing something wrong and were confident that they would be able to bulldoze(read buy) their way out of it !
Why is the inevitability of punishment not associated with wrong doing? Punishment is just as important as reward.But punishment can be helpful only if there is some remorse or regret in the first place. So more than the system it is innate character of individuals, their individual understanding of right and wrong, that explains the two vastly different responses in the somewhat similar situations.
So brazening it out as always —
Kya karein Saala, Character dheela hai !!
— Saurabh Agrawal