Sunday, October 12, 2014

(Re)Defining Law

Abi was petrified when she learnt on the day of her audit that the actions taken against some key risks in her IT project team had not been documented so far. Of course, her project auditor would quickly figure that out and grill her, leading to escalations and her senior managers jumping up & down! This is not an uncommon scenario for most of us who have been in IT for a long time. The designations could vary and scenarios could slightly vary, but you get the picture mostly.

When someone asks what would you do on encountering a problem (a risk), 99% of sane people would respond that they will fix the problem on hand now (also called contingency action) and also put a fix so the probability of the problem occuring in future is minimized greatly (called mitigation action). All of this is common sense, well ... mostly.

Why then is this common sense / knowledge not being applied to law? Let me draw a parallel from the above IT management scenario and show the link.

As a common citizen, I want law in my place (city, state, country) to be enforced in such a way that:

- First, a problem (lawlessness) can be identified and reported smoothly
- Secondly, a quick solution, even if temporary, be put in place to resolve the situation for now
- Thirdly, a long-term solution be put in place that acts as deterrent for anyone who tries to create such problems

At the risk of getting hit with some negative comments from readers, let me take the latest legal sensation - Ms J Jayalalitha, ex-CM of Tamilnadu (acting CM at that time) being jailed in a corruption case. Her bail pleas were also rejected. This led to some potential unrest situations in several cities and definitely impacted public life, even if the media claims it as minimal.

First, the reporting mechanism is not smooth under current law. As a common citizen, is it even possible for me to think of reporting against someone in that position? Definitely no. It need not be the CM, I cannot even go and lodge a legal complaint against the next door person who creates lot of nuisance to everyone in the street, at least not easily under the current system.

Secondly, the temporary solution that was put in place in this case was to arrest her and make her pay 100 crores as a fine.

Thirdly, what is the long-term solution that the legal system is putting in place for such crimes? Am ok with taking the money back part of it. In fact, take 200 crores and keep them under house arrest. At least, if THAT money goes to the country (properly used), it will be of some use. Strip a person convicted in a crime from their position and rank. All is well so far!

But why would you want to jail them? The legal / judiciary system would have to pay somebody to monitor that person, pay for their food, take care of their medical expenses, etc. Who would bear the brunt if something happens on medical grounds to that person in jail? Why should someone who has taken lot of money enjoy all such comforts with my tax-money!?

It has already become a joke (many a movie can confirm it) that if you do not have any money, do some petty crime and get into jail. You will enjoy food and comforts that you cannot find outside. I have begun to suspect that probably many crimes happen because of this!

We need to redefine the legal system in this country. The law has to be made simple enough for everyone to understand. We should not complicate things too much by putting many restrictions. Just give the guidelines that X, Y, Z has to be adhered to. If somebody violates it, accordingly the punishment has to be delivered & quickly.

I fully understand that any system when put in place, will look nice but will have to changed slightly over time. I understand that punishments will have to vary for a similar crime don't keep customizing the punishments every now and then, definitely not so many times within 70 years of the formation of such a system itself!

Will put in more thoughts about it soon ...

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