Saturday, May 20, 2006

Don't the Cops get the Law?

(I know this is old news, but hey, I haven't had net access for a while, so please adjust.)

Recently, out-of-the-spotlight actor Naveen Nischol came back right into public consciousness when his wife Geetanjali committed suicide. Apparently, she blamed his behaviour for driving her to suicide.
Geetanjali, who was found hanging from the ceiling fan inside their bedroom on Saturday night, had left behind a note next to her bed saying she was disturbed by Naveen’s heavy drinking and had repeatedly asked him to put an end to his habit because it was affecting their finances.

She also allegedly said that Praveen supported his brother on the issue.

So what did Mumbai's finest do in this case? They arrested the brothers Nischol on charges of cruelty to women, and, incredibly, abetment of suicide.
‘‘They were arrested under Sections 498 (a) (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code,’’ said Senior Police Inspector Joe Gaikwad, refusing to divulge any other details.
Now while the cruelty charge may or may not be justified, the abetment charge seems (at least to my legally-ignorant eyes) moronic. Abetment according to, means:
  1. To approve, encourage, and support (an action or a plan of action); urge and help on.
  2. To urge, encourage, or help (a person): abetted the thief in robbing the bank.
Obviously this does not apply here. Navin and Pravin Nischol may have behaved badly, but they did not force Geetanjali to commit suicide. And there certainly does not seem to be any evidence to show that they urged, encouraged or helped her to commit suicide. She committed suicide because she could no longer live with their behaviour. If this is abetment of suicide, then isn't the Government of Maharashtra guilty of abetting hundreds of farmer suicides?

Although the Nischols have been granted bail on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence to convict them of the charges (btw, shouldn't that lead to an acquittal?), there is a larger issue here. This case seems to show that the Mumbai Police (if not other departments all over the country) does not adequately understand the laws that it is supposed to enforce, and labours under serious misconceptions about what they mean. That really cannot be a good thing.


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