Using black bucks to bring changes to quantum of punishment

Be it demonetisation or Salman Khan; I feel that India experts have always shown an inexplicable desire to mislead us about the status of blackbucks every time they surface in media!

In case of demonetisation, even before Income Tax returns are scrutinised by Income Tax department, self-appointed experts have made prophetic proclamation that black bucks that may get hunted down will be of least concern; and in case of Salman Khan, experts want us to believe that blackbucks that were hunted are threatened and hence of great concern.

While I lack soothsaying abilities and hence will have to wait for Income Tax department to hunt down black bucks before deciding upon the matter in case of demonetisation; in case of Salman Khan, I plan to dare to defer with experts, as there exists a sound scientific base regarding blackbucks and their status.

It may come as a great surprise to those getting educated by the most reliable medium dispensing knowledge in India, i.e. experts appearing on TV, that blackbucks are not endangered.

International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global body that maintains a Red List of Threatened Species had listed status of blackbuck as “Vulnerable” when the Salman Khan case was registered, and today blackbucks have graduated to the status of “Least Concern”.

So, unlike what various experts have claimed in media, black buck is not a threatened species in the eye of science. As blackbucks are included as protected species listed in schedule 1 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 of India, hunting them earns you mandatory enjoyment to state hospitality for a duration ranging from one to six years.

Salman Khan is awarded a jail term of five years along with a fine of Rupees Ten Thousand for causing untimely demise of two Antilope cervicapra using high velocity projectiles as the honourable court found that specific quantum of punishment appropriately matches with seriousness of his crime.

As my aesthetic and artistic senses are regularly violated by Salman Khan films, I am tempted to agree with the judgement, but IPC is yet to mature to consider my cinematic tastes, so I am forced to contemplate of another extremely serious aspect of jurisprudence that this saga has highlighted.

One of the greatest concerns for judicial pundits across the world is human subjectivity creeping into judgements. As law aspires to be absolute and independent of human biases and limitations, it is a prime objective for every law that it discourages subjective interpretations.

Under the light of this guiding principle, prerogative available to judges in deciding quantum of punishment has always been a matter of grave concern, especially in serious cases where the palette of punishment available to the judge is a large one.

The Salman Khan verdict throws up a serious question about the range of discretion available in terms of quantum of punishment, because there is little comparison between life behind bars for a single year and six long years. As freedom is the most fundamental right of a human being, depriving a person of it should require clear and objective logic of law instead of subjective consideration of human opinion when it has such a serious implication.

While blackbucks have provided me with a rare opportunity to bring public attention to the matter, the need of reducing of judicial discretion as far as possible is recognised for a long time. When one crime can result in extremely different punishments based on judges’ perception, it has a great risk of such judgements spreading a sense of injustice and loss of faith in judiciary in long run. This is The most recognised precursor to destabilisation of a state. So, clarity in laws defining punishments is existentially essential for the wellbeing of a nation.

The black bucks may be of least concern from perspective of science, but the issue they have raised is of a great concern for the nation.

While we are extremely lucky to have a fine constitution as a guiding spirit for the nation, we are not realising that we are a long way away from refining processes of the law. If we fail to evolve our criminal justice system, even the finest constitution in the world will fail to provide us with a stable nation.

As a connoisseur of absurd, I am tempted to point out that, with the processes we have today, it has taken twenty years for Salman Khan’s case to go past the first level of judiciary.

In the context of a blackbuck’s life expectancy of 10-15 years, at the same pace, outcome of the infinite wisdom of Supreme Court of India on this matter (that is bound to be sought at one point) will be available only to the fifth or sixth generation of the departed antelopes.

I am sure that black bucks will be least concerned about it, but we should take a very serious note of it if we value justice.

If we are candid about public perception of our judicial system, most people believe that black bucks are useful to change quantum of punishment, so I hope that I am entitled to put them to the similar use with a slightly different objective.

I am more concerned today because our politicians have almost shut down the law-making machine of our nation, so the situation is now really grave for legal reforms to arrive at the pace they are needed.

I strongly believe that people are required to be made more aware of the role that jurisprudence play in a democratic nation by discussing such issues in public domain, so they become informed and put pressure on the political system to act before it is too late.

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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