The cigarette butts take flight from the window of a moving car. The embers fly down the road and unnerve other motorists. A tin can comes tumbling out and makes the driver behind swerve dangerously. A crumpled package arcs through the apartment balcony door and lands on a ledge. Beaches and picnic spots choke on uneaten foods. A man stops on a public highway to relieve himself against someone’s private wall, oblivious to passersby. For a nation that perhaps bathes more than any other country, we are still litterbugs.
We all know it and condemn it. But we still do it. It is in our DNA and it is an encouraging sign of our times that Anushka Sharma admonished film actor Arrhan Singh for throwing plastic out of his car and onto the Mumbai road. The more celebrities that make an effort to change our habits, the more likely it is that change will occur.
But when righteousness turns into hubris and your position as a popular and accomplished trendsetting individual is misused to castigate someone publicly and then globally for an infringement that would make half a billion people accessories before and after the fact then something is not quite right. Singh did not commit a heinous crime. His anti-social act demanded a telling off, which he received in spades. In fact, the video shows him looking shell-shocked and deeply embarrassed. Point taken.
You stop at a light. A stranger in another vehicle flings a container onto the road. It rolls to a stop. Your response is one of indignation. You reflexively show your annoyance and call the person on it. The light changes to green and you drive off, smug and satisfied you did the right thing. Happens hundreds of times a day across Mumbai.
Where is the spontaneity in taping it all on video? That is an invasion of privacy. And then it enters the realm of premeditated. You got out the phone, switched to camera mode and went for it. Really? On a busy Mumbai road. To then send it out on social platforms is slander and makes for a very strong case against Sharma.
Legally, Sections 499 and 500 make defamation a criminal offence. Even though we have limited liability under civil law this section is pretty serious. Even the Bhagavad Gita is quoted: “For a man of honour, defamation is worse than death”. Right to reputation is an inherent right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. Defamation is only acceptable if the said statement spoken or written or published or visible manner… going viral with a video would make the grade.
All too often what happens is that when you're lionised — like the Kohlis —you begin to take certain liberties. You feel empowered to act. There is this feeling of invulnerability and you can see it reflected in the fact that a very large section of Indians are supporting Sharma's move. That most of these supporters have committed the same act multiple times makes their scathing outrage suspect.
To call Singh names, have his mother come to bat for him and ask why her son’s reputation and name should be so ruined that his career is in jeopardy and have members of the public and bloggers scream insults at him seems incredibly out of proportion to his crime.
Just because your husband is popular and well liked as captain of the Indian cricket team does not give you the right to get holier-than-thou. It is like being a spectator in the stadium and offended by the players mouthing profanities while your children are watching on TV or correcting their ball guards while grandma is sitting with you or digging their noses or spitting and hawking.
Imagine videotaping a few minutes of spliced footage of cricketers doing unattractive acts unknowingly and then placing that video in a public forum. I believe Singh has a very strong case. What he did was wrong. But the international humiliation gives him grounds for redress. Put yourself in his position. Imagine some celebrity going after you because you flung some garbage where you shouldn’t have. And don’t say you haven’t ever.
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Updated Date: Jun 25, 2018 17:04:25 IST