We make laws or rules without taking into account our own social background. Then we keep changing them very frequently. And, it is left up to the policemen and -women to implement them. In the process the whole sanctity of law is lost, observes Soroor Ahmed
Ignorance of law cannot be an excuse. But this saying cannot be applicable when the laws, rules and regulations are changed at the drop of a hat. How can a common person busy throughout the day – and even night – to earn his or her livelihood keep himself or herself updated when the government, be it at the Centre or in a state, keeps changing the laws and rules every day. And that too in the country where a sizeable percentage of population is either illiterate or semi-literate.
Be it rules on demonetisation, GST, traffic movement, or restrictions during the lockdown, etc., it was the responsibility of the government to inform each and every individual to become a law-abiding citizen. It is true the government with the help of newspapers or television channels spread the coming into effect of new rules and laws. But the problem is that by the time some people know about them, comes the amendment in the rules. This creates a lot of confusion.
Take the case of note ban: the government changed the rules so many times in 52 days between November 8, 2016 and December 30, 2016 that even the well-informed citizens could not keep track on it. An average person had to face a lot of harassment simply because of the inconsistency in rules. But then demonetisation and GST have largely impacted the well off and relatively educated class of population, which some way or the other kept themselves updated. What about the laws, rules and regulations made for the common workforce who either do not get time as they work 12 to 14 hours daily or are not literate enough to read and understand them.
For example, how can a person living in Delhi or any other city and has his/her own vehicle know about the traffic rules which keep changing without stop everywhere. In this era of pollution the Odd and Even Formula keeps the long-route drivers entering Delhi totally confused and perplexed. How can a vehicle driver from outside Delhi know nitty-gritty of the ever changing rules.
Besides, the problem with the traffic rules is that it is up to the unhelpful, hostile and corrupt police to implement them. They are themselves not aware of the letter and spirit of the law.
In many cities and towns the police introduce the One-Way rule in such a way as if all the 130-crore people of India are aware of all the roads and lanes of all the cities and towns in the country. In the 21st century when the long-route traffic movement on cars and SUVs has increased several folds, there should be more clarity in framing of rules. Barring a few big cities, a large number of those who have taken up driving as profession are still ignorant about many aspects of rules and laws.
The irony is that at many intersections in small cities one may not find any traffic policemen to instruct and advise the driver about the routes which he needs to follow within the particular place. Or, if they are ever present, they are busier in extorting money rather than helping the poor driver who at times is really not aware of the routes of the city he has entered.
A somewhat bizarre incident took place with a person who had recently travelled in the front seat of a SUV. After entering a big city and almost reaching the spot where he was to get down, he unbolted the front seatbelt at a short distance before the vehicle was to stop. Just at this point, emerged a traffic policeman and started rebuking him. His plea that he was about to step down from the vehicle failed to convince the cop and the latter imposed a fine.
He was penalised when he was not breaking the rule. He later learnt that he was actually fined not because he was not using the front seatbelt, but simply because he, as he was new to that city, had stopped the car in front of the gate of the police thana. This angered the traffic cops standing there.
First, we make laws or rules without taking into account our own social background. Then we keep changing them very frequently. Lastly, it is left up to the policemen and -women to implement them. In the process the whole sanctity of law is lost.
The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar is these days suffering from a sort of liquor obsession. Day in and day out he is shouting from the house-top that he would make his state dry. But this appears to be a daunting task for him. The reason is very simple. In the first decade of his 16 years rule, he saw all the virtues in spreading the booze culture. On July 1, 2007 he introduced the New Excise Policy. The logic was absurd – the boost in sale of liquor would bring in more revenue to post-partition Bihar. Notwithstanding his effort to tone up the infrastructure of the state, the only industry he could bring in Bihar was that of liquor and beer. He could neither revive the sick sugar mills nor could set up any bicycle plant as promised.
Sonalika Tractor came with much fanfare and wound up its plant after less than a year. Bill Gates and Mukesh Ambani also paid a visit. But those were mere sight-seeing trips. On industrialisation front the situation of Bihar turned worse than that of the Lalu years.
In the financial year 2011-12 alone the Nitish government granted 35,000 licences to liquor shops in 8,000 panchayats. Bihar then had more liquor shops than schools.
These days Nitish is touring different nooks and corners of the state and quoting even Mahatma Gandhi, not realising that it was during the Global Bihar Summit in February 2012 that famous liquor baron of Britain, Lord Karan Bilimoria claimed: “Had Mahatma Gandhi been here, I would have offered him Cobra non-alcoholic beer as refreshment.”
The Indian origin industrialist then used to be prize guest of the Nitish Kumar government. He made big investment in this sector in the same Bihar. But after 2015 Nitish had made a U-turn and these days he is openly yelling that those who want to drink can better stay away from the state.
However, almost six years after the April 1, 2016 prohibition, liquor is still available in Bihar and on the occasion of recent festivals many people died after consuming it.
Whatever may be the chief minister’s stand, he is not being taken seriously by his own party (JD-U) and the alliance partner, BJP, on this issue. Several senior NDA leaders, including former CM, Jitan Ram Manjhi, is repeatedly accusing Nitish of adopting double standards on the issue. He said that there are two laws in Bihar – one for the rich and powerful and the other for the poor and powerless. Only the poor
are going to jail, he said.
Reacting to Bihar CM, the Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana said that every policy needs to address futuristic planning, evaluation and constitutionality before its implementation on the ground. The liquor ban decision of the Nitish Kumar government in 2016 has left a large number of cases pending in the courts. Even hearings for bail in simple cases are taking one year time in the courts. “The applications pertaining to bails in liquor prohibition act are submitted in large numbers in the High Court. Due to short-sighted policies implemented by different governments, it is affecting the works of courts in the country. Every law needs to be discussed thoroughly and with solid points before implementation,” he said.
Those who are framing laws and rules every day and then changing them with equal speed need to be reminded about the Roman scholar, Tacitus’s statement: “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”