Nariman, Sorabjee and JNU: How we reduced eminent lawyers to tools of our confirmation bias

In his work ‘The psychology of judgment and decision making’, Scott Plous explains a curious phenomenon called ‘confirmation bias.’

Also called ‘confirmatory bias’ or ‘myside bias’, it is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving ‘disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities’.

Nariman, Sorabjee and JNU: How we reduced eminent lawyers to tools of our confirmation bias

A file photo of protesting students at JNU. PTI

While firing from the shoulders of Fali S Nariman, eminent jurist and senior advocate at Supreme Court, India’s ‘liberalatti’ has reduced a constitutional debate to a ‘tu tu main main’, served best with poha and hot masala chai.

The cognitive favouritism is yet again on display in the way celebrity opinion-makers have cherry-picked on certain statements made by Nariman and produced it as ‘conclusive evidence’ for their version of ‘ultimate truth’ over l’affaire JNU, displaying towards contrarian views the same intolerance which they accuse the government of showing while taking up the cudgels in favour of free speech.

Let us see what exactly Nariman, the constitutional jurist, wrote in Indian Express on Wednesday: “Sedition” in India is not unconstitutional, it remains an offence only if the words, spoken or written, are accompanied by disorder and violence and/ or incitement to disorder and violence. “Mere hooliganism, disorder and other forms of violence, though punishable under other provisions of the penal code and under other laws, are not punishable under Section 124A of the penal code. Likewise, mere expressions of hate, and even contempt for one’s government, are not sedition. When a person is dubbed “anti-Indian”, it is distasteful to India’s citizenry, but then to be “anti-Indian” is not a criminal offence, and it is definitely not “sedition”. (It only means that you are a freak, and that it is high time to have your head examined!)

If Nariman says being anti-Indian isn’t a criminal offence and does not merit a charge of ‘sedition’, he also calls for the sloganeering students’ heads to be examined.

But the senior Supreme Court advocate’s nuanced opinion has now been watered down to a validation of one side’s ‘victory’ over the other.

It is also interesting to note eminent lawyer Soli Sorabjee's take on this issue.

While talking to news agency ANI, the former attorney general said: “If someone says ‘Afzal Guru ka conviction galat tha’ that’s not sedition.

“But if it (someone) goes further, (and) says ‘Afzal Guru ko galat faasi diya, dekhega abhi, yeh sab state mein jawab dena padega’, that’s sedition,” he said to the news agency.

He weighed in on the debate again during an interview with India Today. Replying to a query whether application of sedition charges against JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar is correct or not, Sorabjee says: “It all depends on facts. First of all, let's understand what sedition means. Any criticism of the government, any disapprobation of the measures of the government, however strongly expressed is sedition. Considering the validity of the Section 124A, in the Kedarnath case, the section is limited to acts or words or deeds, which have a tendency to disrupt public order, or which incite violence.”

On slogans such as “Afzal, hum sharminda hain, tere qatil zinda hai, Tum kitney Afzal maroge, har ghar mein Afzal niklega,” Sorabjee says: “This would be incitement. This is not a borderline case, but it has to be proved. This has to be established,” according to the report.

When two of India’s most sagacious minds deliver nuanced opinions, trust our ‘liberals’ to turn their reasoned views into a confirmation of their bias. My truth, after all, is whiter than your truth.

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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2016 17:53:28 IST

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