Attack on Sukh Ram – a passport to publicity
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Attack on Sukh Ram – a passport to publicity

He is the original telecom ‘scammer’. On Saturday, November 19, 2011 Sukh Ram was sentenced to jail for five years because of accepting three hundred thousand rupees as bribe. Fifteen years later this would amount to petty change especially given the quantum of hush-money and loss to exchequer being talked about in India’s ongoing telecom scam. But when Sukh Ram was minister in the early 1990s the money was not exactly small currency. But law in India goes about its business slowly. This is why it finally caught up with him 15 years later by when Sukh Ram had become a pitiable 86 year old man.

This is probably one reason that got Harvinder Singh’s goat. There could be many other reasons for the 32 year man behaving oddly in the court premises and attacking the former minister. Besides the temporarily – or permanently – ‘out of senses’ argument that his counsel might put forth, another reason behind the attack could be his calculation that this was the shortest and ‘sure-shot’ way of getting into television.

In a few weeks it will be three years since Muntadar al-Zaidi entered the hall of (ill)fame by hurling a shoe at former United States President George W Bush and becoming an inspirational figure to scores in several countries including in India. But what started as a cry in the dark has now become an exercise in seeking publicity besides being a throwback to the Hammurabi’s Code. Such action takes jurisprudence to the Dark Ages especially in countries like India where people immensely value democratic rights and the judiciary has greatly empowered people in recent decades. By securing their 20 seconds of fame, people like Harvinder Singh are doing grave disservice to the country.

Unfortunately the wave of such protests where people began taking law into their hands began within months of al-Zaidi’s action. In April 2009 it had ironically been a journalist who set the ball rolling in India when Jarnail Singh hurled a show at Home Minister P Chidambaram. It was an unfortunate incident and several journalists and representative bodies criticized the action contending that utilizing a press interaction to make personal political statements eroded the sanctity of such conferences. Thereafter many others have been ‘shoed away’ and this has included Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and former Leader of Opposition, LK Advani. Others have been roughed up – Suresh Kalmadi and Sukh Ram being among them.

Sane sections in society should condemn these acts because they are perpetrated by publicity seekers and undermine the judicial process. Legal processes in India may be slow but is still more independent than in most parts of the world. True that Sukh Ram was found guilty in two cases earlier but he did not go to jail because the sentence was light and managed bail. But law has caught up with him. But if the judiciary is undermined, future Sukh Rams will go scot free and jungle law will be the only resort for Indians.