24 September 2012

The gravity of the law


We have moved a fair distance from Newtonian Physics, but in the necessarily context-bound universes that we inhabit, what goes up still comes down. 

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every point pass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Gravitation is responsible for keeping the Earth and the other planets in their orbits around the Sun; for keeping the moon in its orbit around the Earth, and other phenomenon in the natural world.

Key to the matter of force is mass. Distance between particular masses are also determining factors when it comes to the nature of their inter-relationships.  Orbits, tides, pull and push, the coalescing of dispersed matter, the integrity of coalesced matter, strong and weak character of relevant forces and such can be alluded to using Newton’s theoretical construct. 

For our purposes the Law of Gravity, as it is referred to colloquially, is a veritable treasure trove of metaphors waiting to be employed in the dissection of things political and social, including law and justice.

There are different masses in society.  There is the mass called ‘The Governed’ and the mass that governs.  There are the judges and the judged.  Lawmakers, law-enforcers, law-abiders and law-breakers.  The distances are relative but at the same time these are not mutually exclusive categories.  The judged also judge, the law-enforcers sometimes break the law as do the lawmakers.  There is a think called ‘separation of powers’, but those in the executive, legislative and judicial spheres at times indulge in cross-border skirmishes. 

But right now we are talking about the gravity of the law.  ‘Gravity’ is not about long faces and furrowed brows.  It is about deference to reason and justice.  Inconsistency, trivializing and mockery should have no place in a court of law.  Can we say that this country is happily insulated by such things? 

One man assaults another.  The victim complains.  The assailant is taken into custody.  The victim recants and the accused is enlarged on bail.  It is not the end of story, though.  In a world where insecurity rules, surveillance has become standard part of security and protection regimes. Human beings are frail.  They can forget.  Memory can trick them. A humanly pernicious strain can make them remember selectively.  They can feign ‘shock’ and offer shock-induced error by way of explanation for change of story.  The camera is a more reliable instrument of recollection, though.  When people lie on considerations of personal security, gift for silence, etc., and make relevant pronouncements in sworn affidavits, it is harder for the courts to elicit the truth. 

Cameras, though, are not there to archive wrongdoing for purely academic reasons.  They are the law-enforcer’s adjuncts.  The story or stories they capture cannot be dismissed on account of punch-induced shock.  They can be erased, of course.  They can be trumped by technical breakdowns.  Not always. 

Gamini Gunawardena, Senior DIG (Rtd) has proposed that the stories of King Kekille and those of Mahadenamutta should be taught in all educational institutions related to public administration, policing and the law.  He has referred to an occasion when the late G.G. Ponnambalam, QC, after demolishing a Justice of the Peace of dubious background in the witness box concluded cross-examination with the wry remark, ‘Neither justice nor peace!’

The nation is aware that such acerbic but telling remarks are made in reference to many institutions and people holding high posts therein.  It should not be the norm.  Someone has got to stop the rot. If not the orbits of certain masses (like the governed and governing) will alter course on account of volume change in the particular bodies, distances will collapse, one will not be recognizable from the other, anarchy will break loose and the order of the universe will be wrecked. 
Needless to say, the law-abiding would suffer most.  Blood will flow, but not all of the blood will belong to the innocent. 
 
Let it not come to that!

[The Nation editorial, September 23, 2012]
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1 comments:

Ramzeen said...

Whatever. We're simply pouring water on a duck's back...but I do appreciate (and applaud) your pun!