12:00 AM, December 07, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 07, 2012

Cross Talk

In the twilight of justice

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Mohammad Badrul Ahsan

A senior assistant judge landed in jail last week for alleged possession of Phensidyl bottles and a licensed gun, neither of which had anything to do with his line of work. Here was a man of law who was doubling up as an outlaw, a modern-day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mixed up between crime and punishment. He supported law on weekdays and subverted it on weekends (he was arrested on a Saturday). This judge was playing both sides of the fence.
People occasionally have to wear two hats at work when a position suddenly falls vacant. Many people moonlight for supplemental incomes. Only God knows what this judge was doing in that van. Police say he has confessed to his role as a delivery man. One is curious if he was also getting high on his own supply.
At this point it appears that his legal career was simply a charade, a useful front to hide a seedy life behind the cover of a respectable job. That I should say is true for many of us who shuffle between their covert and overt lives. One doesn't need to hit a calculator to work out the calculus. A drug runner possibly takes home more money in one weekend than a judge does in an entire month or a year.
Fyodor Dostoevsky writes in Crime and Punishment: "If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be punishment as well as the prison." Prisons are meant to be prosthesis for crippled conscience. An individual is thrown behind the high walls of a prison when the walls of his conscience have all but crumbled. Our particular judge must have been raised on this diet of wisdom. Yet he chose to live two lives, playing hide and seek with himself and rest of the world.
Conscience is an ordinary man's communion with God. What he sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches are distilled by this invisible process that purifies his thoughts. If our man the judge was handling two contradictory jobs at the same time, it was simply because he lost his conscience. He was not thinking that he had crossed the line. A keeper had turned into a usurper.
An Argentinean folklore has it that one night the dogs went to party with the cats and customarily left their tails outside the doors. That night a big storm blew through the valley and mixed up all the tails. Ever since then every dog is suspicious that the other dog must be wearing his tail.
That same storm has also left us disillusioned. The timing of that storm is controversial. Some say it happened in 1971, others say it was 1975, and still some people would like to argue that the year was 1990. But one thing is clear that each of us has lost his or her place in life.
It has changed the game. Once we fought hard to keep our body and soul together, but now the fight is to tear them asunder. The judge was a moral arbiter in his body, but he was a miscreant in his soul. So are some politicians, doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, armchair analysts, Friday freethinkers, living room liberals and corridor conservatives in this country, each of whom is split into two personalities. The person sitting in the showroom isn't the same person in the godown.
If the arrest last week has shocked many people in this country, it mustn't have shocked the man himself. He may be sad and somewhat annoyed with himself for failing to conduct his business more discreetly. He may have the disappointment of a masquerade ball participant whose mask failed to hide his identity.
But he knew what he was doing. He knew law is like an etherised patient, breathing but immobilised and ineffective. In his mind it must have been all the same. Others help the criminal for money. He joined them to do the same thing.
As surely as night follows day, condoning crime is a crime in itself. Whether that crime is committed with underhand dealings or contraband items carried inside a van, the end result is the same. Reckless protectors of law in the driving seat of a feckless system are driving under the influence of money.
Justice delayed is justice denied, but justice depraved is even worse. American judge Earl Warren is credited for saying that the police must obey the law while enforcing the law. We are disappointed to find a judge allegedly amongst the drug dealers. Those who bend the law and those who break the law, both operate in the twilight of justice.

The writer is the Editor, First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: badrul151@yahoo.com

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