An item in the papers this morning indicates that the Supreme Court of India will decide on the future of cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul. The Committee of Administrators (CoA), which currently runs Indian cricket, has requested the bench to appoint an ombudsman to re-investigate the CoA's inquiry, after which he will pass on his report and recommendations to the Supreme Court, which will then agree — or disagree — with it and forward its comments to the CoA… What is going on here?
Why should this have come to such a grotesque pass? If the CoA could suspend the cricketers, issue them show-cause notices and drag them back from Australia in a humiliating disgrace, why can it not also decide the quantum of punishment and get on with it? It boggles the mind that despite having major cases before it, the Supreme Court has to make time for an issue that deserves censure by the administration and management and scarcely calls for such a major development.
This was an internal matter of discipline and code of conduct between players and the governing body or its stand-in.
In March 2018, when Australian bowler Cameron Bancroft was caught by television cameras sandpapering the ball and captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were found to be involved, Cricket Australia made in-house decisions because that was their role, to set things right.
Then why is the Hardik-Rahul case a legal issue now?
They broke no laws per se, and no FIR was filed against them; no case was made against the sportsmen in legal terms. Consequently, there is no frame of reference for the Supreme Court to have a role in what was largely youthful indiscretion and a bit of babbling. We do not need to crucify the players and wreck their lives and careers in this fashion. Let the punishment fit the crime. They have unreservedly apologised. The show they were on was not live but taped. Therefore, there have to be co-defendants, like the host and the channel who pushed the show into the public realm.
It is uncharitable and cruel to chop off a head for stealing a loaf of bread. A simple slap on the wrist, a financial fine and a two-match suspension would have satisfied everyone. Even the most diehard feminist cannot possibly be getting any joy or satisfaction out of this grotesque route that this controversy has taken. It is almost ghoulish, and the fact that people of right mind are keeping silent at what is now down the chute of travesty is indicative of how much fear there is in the fallout from the #MeToo movement.
For those of us who always believed that there has to be a violation of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in some form or the other for there to be a legal basis to go to court, these two cricketers have broken no clauses that one can think of, never mind that no one has accused them in a court under any Act. There must be a plaintiff for there to be a defendant.
Even under Section 499 of the IPC, any defamation reflected in the objectification of women would demand that they be seen as an entity and that entity then place a case in court. To the best of one's knowledge, nobody has taken this step.
Sections 292, 293 and 294 of the IPC deal with obscene acts or words in public. The law does not clearly define what constitutes an obscene act except that someone should be offended, which makes it open to interpretation and not fact-based.
Even if it is applied in this case, under clause 2 — which states that anyone who sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words in or near any public place is liable to pay a fine and face three months in prison — the point is that there is no case now. So why should the Supreme Court be called upon to adjudicate?
One may recall that that Supreme Court has dismissed a complaint against Hollywood actor Richard Gere for publicly kissing actress Shilpa Shetty, observing that "no case was made out".
The defence rests. Let it go.
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Updated Date: Jan 19, 2019 17:44:36 IST