SSSHHHH... Ragasiyam (Almost an excellent drama... just almost)

In my final year as a law student, I started growing a beard.  It was the perfect time to grow one, especially with full time post graduation employment looming ahead.

My scruffy appearance coupled with my choice of education attracted the unnecessary comparisons  with a prominent lawyer in Singapore. Truth be told, I hated the comparison so much that I even FB-ed about it when I was still studying
"Yupp, For those who are wondering why im not going to... join a lawfirm and become the next Subhas Ananthan , firstly, Criminals should be kept in prisons and not out... "

Strangely, following my graduation, I ended up doing a stint in a lawfirm where majority of the work that I handled involved criminal litigation. It is then, that I realised that an overwhelming majority of people who get caught by the long arm of the law are just average folks who were unlucky in some way or were cornered into such a situation. Most people knew they were acting against their conscience but did not realise that the actions would amount to a criminal offence. Some were just doing what everyone else was doing but they were caught. It was an eye-opener for me. I would dare say  that, almost everyone that I know, myself included, has done just about enough to attract criminal liability. We are the lucky ones, I guess.

While I met clients from all walks of life, there was one common thread that united them all. The lack of awareness and knowledge of criminal law and procedure.  After enduring Nijangal 3, I was extremely pleased that Vasantham was going to air a Legal Drama. The credits even revealed that  the production team had engaged another prominent law firm, at least among the Indian community, as their Legal Consultant.

To be honest, I really enjoyed this drama. It was a stellar cast, Soundarajan, Sara Ayyvoo and Neruppu Guna amongst others. However, just as one tiny blot of ink can ruin a white shirt, this drama had one such stain, a rather big one, if you ask me.
[Ed Note: For those who did not follow this drama, please skip the next paragraph and continue thereafter]


The incident in question occurs when Rudra gets framed for a drug offence in Mauritius by his former boss, the Great Diwakar. Although he is innocent, Rudra decides to plead guilty (admitting to the offence) and serves out a 1 year prison sentence. He decides against claiming trial (fighting for his innocence)  for fear of losing the case, which would have resulted in much heavier sentence.

Honestly, I was livid with Vasantham for commissioning a programme that had a person admitting to criminal offence that he did not commit. To top it off, he was a lawyer. Yes, this is a fictional drama etc. I belong to the camp that believes that media has a  social responsibility. A responsibility to educate and to explain. By having such a screenplay, Vasantham must realise that it is indirectly endorsing that one can plead guilty (admit) to an offence that he did not commit. Something that goes against one's fundamental right.

Imagine a simpleton who has been arrested after being framed for an offence. When he tries to convince his family to arrange for some money to engage a lawyer to represent him, imagine him being told " Dei, if the Rudra fella can sit inside for 1 year, why can't you , da?  The lawyer fella can tahan...you cannot, ah?". Yes this may sound far-fetched, but I can see this happening. One should underestimate the power of media's influence.
What Rudra did in the drama is not an uncommon action in reality.

In a criminal process an accused (a person who has been charged with a crime) may receive an offer from the prosecution if he  decides to plead guilty. That offer may come in the form of a reduced number of charges or even reduction to a less serious charge. For lack of a better word,  the State has decided to give the accused a 'discount' since he has admitted to his mistake as opposed to claiming trial. [Everyone has to be mindful that, where criminal law is concerned, the burden lies with the Prosecution to prove that the accused has committed the criminal offence beyond a reasonable doubt] As such, when an accused pleads guilty, he is in fact saving the Prosecution a whole deal of work. This is commonly referred to as plea-bargaining. A concept that is fundamentally against Rule of Law, but yet, a necessary tool to create an efficient Legal system.

In reality, people do plead guilty for a variety of reasons. First being, they did actually commit the crime. In other cases, some of them may not have the financial resources to claim trial, some may be advised that the evidence is against their favour, some taking the rap for others etc.

One of the most important lessons my Mother taught me  was to never give up and fight for your rights. As we grow older, through experience, we learn that there are some fights that are beyond us and there are certain fights that you have to wait for the right time to strike. Perhaps, if you were put in Rudra's shoes, you may decide to accept a short punishment for something you did not do. But make sure you know why you are doing it and not just give up for nothing.

Meanwhile, I am sure national television can do better to vet its programmes.


 

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