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Debunking AAP's 'democratisation' of justice

January 25, 2014 18:04 IST

Now that the Aam Aadmi Party has uploaded ‘evidence’ in the form of videos, it has sought to democratise the legal process as now the public can also judge.

Do we find this method acceptable? Are you free to enact a trial online or publicly, placing, propagating, popularising ‘evidence’ to prove your point? We know that this ‘evidence’ may not stand in a court of law. But that does not worry the moral brigade known as the AAP, argues Apoorvanand.

It seems the Aam Aadmi Party has now decided to hit back at critics by uploading videos online to defend the controversial actions of Somnath Bharti, its law minister in Delhi. Bharti has been chastised even by AAP supporters for his vigilantism and for trying to force the Delhi police to raid the house of suspected sex and drug racketeers. The lawyer-turned-politician claimed that he ‘helped’, along with his followers, to catch two of the fleeing women.

In all eight videos have been uploaded. They, according to the party, contain incriminating evidence to prove that sex and drug racketeers were very much active in the Khirki Extension area of Delhi. Reporting on the videos, The Times of India says '… some of the scenes are not so easy to judge. Two clips show an African national walking around naked in the area. In another, three women in a car are rubbing some substance in their hands. Yet another shows several condoms lying in the car'.

We do indeed see an African national moving around naked in the video. This is supposed to prove the allegation by the party that drugs are being used, as according to one AAP worker “walking around naked like this is an after-effect of drugs and this is a regular occurrence in the area”.

You can also see condoms lying in the car. Do you need any more evidence to prove that the occupants of the car were indeed prostitutes carrying condoms with them and luring men to indulge in sex? Why are these three women rubbing some substance in their hands, or were trying to hide something by putting on gloves?

The Aam Admi Party, it appears, does not need any more proof to corroborate its allegations against the Africans of Khirki village. They watch these videos and are satisfied that the ‘poor minister’ was forced to do what an honest police officer should have done much earlier.

In fact, the party has gathered this ‘evidence’ to help the lousy police force, which lets cases fall apart in court for want of evidence.

By making this ‘evidence’ public the AAP has sought to democratise the legal process. Now the public can also judge. If the judges, who are part of the 'corrupt system' (according to the AAP), reach a different conclusion, it can always go to the court of the people and tell them that the judges have gone against their judgment and ask them to revolt against the 'corrupt system'.

The New Delhi government of Arvind Kejriwal wants us to wait till the inquiry by the committee appointed by Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung is over to take a decision on the conduct of its minister.

But the party itself does not want to wait. By some divine sanction it feels it can bypass the process it wants others to respect, and conduct its own public inquiry. The results of that inquiry are already out: the minister is innocent and the African nationals are guilty!

Do we find this method acceptable? Are you free to enact a trial online or publicly, placing, propagating, popularising ‘evidence’ to prove your point? We know that this ‘evidence’ may not stand in a court of law. But that does not worry the moral brigade known as the AAP.

As far as it is concerned, the videos have served their purpose of proving the ‘guilt’ of the African men and women in the eyes of the common people.

Why do I find it disturbing? Is it because I find it politically abhorring as it is an act of racial and gender profiling? Does the political incorrectness of the message disturb me? Or, do I disagree with the form of ‘parading’ the evidence in public adopted by the AAP?

This public trial reminds me of the tragic result of another recent public trial of a well-known social activist in Delhi by taking recourse to the same method: creating ‘evidence’ to prove your point for or against a person or a community and publicising it widely.

There is no way the ‘other party’ could have reached this larger community of ‘judges’ and contested this ‘evidence’ unleashed through a collective process. There is no way to examine and question the evidence. Seeing is believing. You have to believe what you are shown. What more proof do you want? Evidence in itself becomes judgment.

This public evidencing against the social activist went on for three months, a public perception was created, the man in question defamed, condemned and destroyed thoroughly. Unable to face this indignation, feeling defenseless before this public crusade, the man killed himself.

Why am I speaking out now but kept silent then? Why did I watch silently this public evidencing and trial go on, why did I tolerate it, why did I let my friends encourage others to see the evidence and decide on their own? Why did I not stand up and speak up then? Was it because it did not violate my anti-rape politics? Was it also because like many others I was in a hurry to collect more and more, diverse kinds of rape evidence to strengthen an anti-rape public sentiment?

This is something I want to think deeply about. About both the form and method we use in our various campaigns.

Our friend Yogendra Yadav says that we are digressing from the real issue of ‘jismfaroshee’ (prostitution) by harping too much on the form his minister had used to bring to the fore the issue of the menace of sex and drug mafia . But the most recent act of his party of putting out the video evidence in public and starting a mass trial to help the ordinary people judge for themselves has again made the question of form central.

Is 'form' only a vessel or a vehicle or does it have a meaning of its own? Does the rightness or correctness of a message justify the use of a form which in the view of the user is the fittest and shortest possible way to achieve the end in a speedy manner? Gandhiji took the risk of raising this question when it was impossible to do so. Can you use a violent form to achieve a just and free society?

We need to revisit the discussion on 'sadhan aur sadhya' initiated by Gandhiji. Or, we may go even further to Tagore who had questioned Gandhi's own methods on more than one occasion. The use of a violent and hasty ‘form’ casts its shadow on the ‘end’ you desire. What you achieve in the end cannot free itself from the unjustness of the means or form adopted.

Human beings have evolved a sense of form in all spheres of their lives. We can even say that this unique sensibility of form is what makes us human. Forsaking it for easy or speedy results, even in the case of politically just causes, is in a way an anti-human act.

The debates in the field of art and literature have established that form and content are inseparable. The choice of form tells you something about the message and content it is supposed to contain.

We also know that the form itself creates its content. We are painfully aware that it was not merely an aesthetic or academic debate for many of our predecessors. Parties or political movements, which had once used and justified violence, killing of opponents to achieve their 'just' ends, have still not apologised sincerely for their use of form.

It is this tactical attitude all of us have towards this question that has led to this culture -- a culture of moral indifference towards the question of form.

It is not only for the AAP but for all of us struggling with our own moral and political contents to stop and ponder more on the forms we adopt.

For, is not the selection of a form in itself a moral decision or judgement?

Image: Delhi law minister and AAP leader Somnath Bharti speaks to mediapersons at his Malviya Nagar constituency under which falls Khirki village

Photograph courtesy: Facebook

Apoorvanand