Jayalalitha – 18 Years to Convict. 20 Days to Get Bail

I must be missing something. The SC just granted Jayalalitha bail. Yes, yes I know this doesn’t mean she’s off the hook. But hey – can you blame me for wondering how long it’s going to be before she’s back in again? Let’s see. Last time, it took a good 18 years for the case against her to be proven. All things being equal, you would think that it would take at least a year or two for her bail applications to meander through the High Courts and Supreme Court right?

Wrong!

In the record time of 20 days, Jayalalitha’s bail application has passed through not one, but two courts! This wouldn’t really bother me, but for one teensy-weensy fact. Lakhs upon lakhs of undertrials are languishing in Indian jails without even a conviction! Huge numbers of people have spent more time in jail waiting for a trial than they would have spent had they been convicted in the first place. Let me place these two side by side:

  1. Person convicted of massive corruption gets bail in 20 days
  2. Person not convicted of anything spends years upon years in jail

Now we all know that money talks – but come on. It’s not supposed to be this bad. I’ll leave the question of whether or not Jayalalitha deserves bail on the table for now. But we all know that if it took 18 years for a conviction in a lower court, she can delay the case from proceeding for another 18 years. And then another bail application while she fights it in the Supreme Court. By that time, no one is alive anymore.

India’s justice system is broken and dysfunctional. Duh. It works from time to time but more often, incidents like this lay bare the bullshit claim that all citizens are equal. We need more judges – a lot more. We need more courts – a lot more. And finally, we need free legal representation for those who cannot afford it for themselves.

You know how in Hollywood movies before arresting someone they read out their rights and say “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you”? That’s what it will take to clear out of our prison system the hapless people who have never even faced a judge. Till that time, those who have enough money and clout to push through bail applications to two top courts in a matter of days will never face the music for their crimes. While those who do not, will rot there forever.

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Comments

  1. well put..

    Reply

  2. Agree. But, what if the lawyer appointed to defend those who cannot afford a lawyer is dishonest? What if he accepts money and doesn’t truly defend his client but helps the other side for a ‘fee’? Then the poor guy is no longer getting a fair trial. Once again, money talks. I think what we need in our country is ethics. At least some degree of ethics. We can’t keep checking people. There comes a point when people have to act somewhat fairly and honestly simply for the sake of fairness and honesty and not for fear of being caught. Otherwise the system breaks down.
    A lot of US businesses operate on trust. When they hire people, sometimes they don’t check your school records etc. They assume you are telling the truth. In my husband’s company, recently they found this Indian contractor who kept supplying candidates with fake degrees. By then a whole round of people had already made some fantastic salaries without the required qualifications. They even had fake phone call interviews (having someone else answer questions).
    Not saying there are no dishonest Americans but dishonesty is so rampant in India, even among ordinary people in everyday situations. As a culture, we’ve become very forgiving of “a little fudging” in the name of “survival”. The politicians and judges are just an extension of the average man on the street – with 10 times the opportunity and 100 times the power.

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    • In reply to Priya

      I think people are the same all over the world. I feel that law enforcement in the US is quick and swift, and this is the primary motivation for people to stay more honest than in India. In time, that behavior becomes the “norm” and it happens automatically. But underlying it all is the basic system that convicts people quickly without delays. Take that away, and I think any place will be as bad as we are.

      In any case, criminal suits will have only a public prosecutor. So there’s no danger of anyone bribing the public defense counsel because it’s unlikely that the government will have such a great interest so as to bribe themselves!

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  3. “And finally, we need free legal representation for those who cannot afford it for themselves.”

    I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Of course, this is already there in India and has pretty much always been there.

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  4. Considering the public outrage (manufactured?), this seems like the government is just trying to appease the angry, have their cake (of arresting the criminal) and eating it too (but let them essentially free).

    I hate to be a conspiracy guy, but looking at the facts presented, it seems very clear that this is happening. Either this, or her friends in the government managed to swing something.

    Money talks but as you said, not this much.

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