Contempt of Law

When I was in the UK, the staff of Transport For London, the company that runs the famous London tube declared strike over salaries. The management took them to court. Two days prior to the date for the strike, the court ruled it illegal. What happened? On the date of announcement, the staff reported to work as usual.

Recently the central government in India announced that 5% of shares in Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) will be disinvested to private sector. The Left took it upon themselves their standard role of ‘Guardians of the Labour Force’ and protested the proposed move. The workers of NLC after finding out that their protest was unheeded declared strike. The management took the issue to court and the High Court declared it illegal. What happened? On the date of announcement, the staff struck work.

What did the management do? They called the union leaders for a negotiation and after several days of negotiation no agreement was reached.

So what is the message? We will defy court without a thought and nothing can happen? The media goes ballistic when the Supreme Court raps our central government for some lapse, whereas not a single media house has ever bothered to take note of it. At least I haven’t seen anyone openly condemning the strike. To make matters worse, almost all political parties have supported it, the ruling ADMK being the main offender. Their support is equivalent to the state government supporting so it is easy to see why the workers were not bothered about the court order.

Tomorrow Supreme Court will order Karnataka to release water and the Karnataka government will refuse to abide by the order and nothing will happen. Tamil Nadu government will cry foul, but nobody will point out to them that they helped NLC workers to defy the court order. We may even see a day when a main political leader may get convicted of some corruption and he will simply ‘refuse’ to go to jail. And the police may not arrest him at all.

This post does not support or oppose the disinvestment move, although that point has been discussed elsewhere. The point here is regardless what stand any of us take, we all come under the law of the land. The idea of democracy and law and order based society means that no one is above the law. Legislatures draft law and the courts enforce it and the police ensure its adherence. Already it has come to the stage that the political class doesn’t have to bother about it anymore. They twist, tweak and bend law at will and, with their money and muscle power, can make sure that the slow, grinding wheels of law are further slowed down, or made never to be moved at all. Today, we have all resigned to the fact that some of our biggest leaders, such as Karunanidhi, Sonia Gandhi, or Chidambaram can never be convicted of any wrongdoing at all, although we all know that they obviously would had a hand in some of history’s biggest scams and even when the tentacles of suspicion has gone up to tangle Karunanidhi’s (first) wife or Sonia’s son-in-law.

Now the government employees are getting more brazen by the day. Already they are lazy, incompetent and corrupt. Now we’re teaching them to be reckless as well. Now, with the state government buying the 5% shares, we’re spoiling them even more, ensuring NLC becomes even less efficient and its workers more complacent.

‘Law and Order,’  Ambedkar said, ‘are the medicine of the body politic and when the body politic gets sick, medicine must be administered.’  Now we’re buying medicine and pouring it down the drain. And the health of the body politic is deteriorating.