Touria Prayag's Blog

l’Express Weekly, 30 September 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 27, 2012

Unequal justice

God knows that Showkutally Soodhun does not have any of the qualities of an angel. Much as he would like to look like one.

His indiscretions have fi lled newspaper columns, so much so that readers now yawn and turn to the next column. His misplaced bravado has not helped him forge the image of the brave guy he so much wants to look like. Instead, it has pushed him on the wrong side of the law. The violent protest he organised outside Radio One revealed him as a fully- fl edged hooligan. His latest brush with the law is one act of irresponsibility too many.

Still, we fi nd it hard to gloat. The heavy- handedness with which the police handled the issue and their stubbornness in applying the law instead of considering the spirit behind the law is obtuse and ill- advised. The charges against him are preposterous.

Yes, of course, we are sick and tired of the instability created by the incessant rumours being circulated left, right and centre in the case of the MedPoint saga. But aren’t rumours the best thing we grow after sugar cane? Yes, these rumours are malicious and dangerous at a time when the population is trying very hard to pierce the mystery of the scandal. The excess of zeal on the part of the police is, however, unwarranted. The role of the police is, indeed, to act within the parameters of the law but they have the fl exibility to deal with each case independently and take a decision on the merit of each. Naturally, using judgment exposes one to criticism and the anger of the public at times. That is the price to pay for any post of responsibility one holds.

But what I worry about most is not Showkutally Soodun. In fact, I don’t worry about him at all. Powerful people hardly ever have to face justice. Their health is too physically weak for that. And thank goodness for the luxury of our clinics and the alacrity with which stretchers fi nd their way into our courtrooms. I worry about the mothers crying in the corridors of justice because their children were refused bail and thrown in jail for a couple of minor offences they may have allegedly committed. I worry about those who do not make the newspaper headlines. I worry about those who do not have enough money to pay bail nor a room in a luxury clinic.

Two months ago, the commissioner of prisons expressed, in the columns of this very paper, his concern about some unnecessary prison sentences in our overpopulated prisons. We have a penal and judiciary policy which encourages imprisonment. The remand prisoners, according to the commissioner, “ make up an important percentage” of the prison population. Worse, these remand prisoners, because of the lack of space, are kept with the other prisoners, in the ‘ school of crime’. There is no segregation. Some of the remand prisoners go there for the wrong reason.

When they go there the second time, it is for the right reason.

So, while we wish Mr. Soodhun a quick recovery and hope that the fi vestar food helps him regain his energy very quickly, we need to point out that this high profi le case has highlighted two things: that parts of our judicial system are archaic and need to be looked into and that our institutions are alive and kicking. It is reassuring to see our courts acting independently and forcefully. Maybe we should stop listening to rumours then and wait for their verdict on MedPoint.

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