Timely SC Correction

The murder of Graham Staines and his two sons by Dara Singh and his goons by burning them to death was a brutal crime.

Written by Soli J. Sorabjee | Published: January 30, 2011 1:33 am

Timely SC Correction

The murder of Graham Staines and his two sons by Dara Singh and his goons by burning them to death was a brutal crime. Dara Singh was convicted and awarded life imprisonment by the High Court. On appeal,the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and maintained the sentence. It,however,rejected the plea of the CBI for enhancement of sentence to death on the ground that the crime committed was not of the rarest of rare kind,a perception which is possible. However,the reasons given for not enhancing the sentence,namely,that the intention of the murderers “was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities,namely,converting poor tribals to Christianity,” were unwarranted and had serious implications.

Staines was not prosecuted nor found guilty under the applicable State Act which prohibits conversions by force or fraud. There was no finding that Staines was indulging in forcible conversions. These observations reveal a mindset that there can be no genuine conversion and proceed on a fallacious assumption that all conversions are the result of force and fraud. A Parsi solicitor in Mumbai converted to Islam,much to the horror of his fellow Parsi Zoroastrians,but no force was involved. An upper middle class Parsi lady converted to Christianity of her own volition. Persons may understandably embrace another religion which spares them humiliation and discrimination and offers them a life with human dignity.

Constituent Assembly debates reveal that the founding fathers recognised that Christianity and Islam are proselytising religions and genuine conversion was permissible and constitutionally guaranteed.

Fortunately,the Supreme Court without loss of time suo moto corrected its error by deleting the aforesaid objectionable paragraph and replaced it with the following: “However,more than 12 years have elapsed since the act was committed,we are of the opinion that the life sentence awarded by the high court need not be enhanced.” A good example of instant course correction.

Nehru & Edwina

The nature of relationship between Pandit Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten has been the subject matter of unending speculation. Were Nehru and Edwina only “lovers” or “were they in love”? The latest to jump in the fray is Alex von Tunzelmann,who in discussing her book with Karan Thapar,diplomatically replied,“only two persons knew the answer to this and they are not here”.

Was their relationship merely platonic or physical or sexual? Why are we bothered? If Nehru found solace in Edwina’s company and was happy,so be it. This insatiable curiosity and speculation is becoming tiresome. The real issue is whether Edwina influenced Nehru’s thinking on Kashmir. There is no convincing evidence on that score. It is difficult to believe that Nehru,a nationalist and a Kashmiri to boot,would take a decision contrary to national interest on the important subject of Kashmir,carried away by Edwina’s charms. Let us put a lid on this controversy.

Colourful Italian Premier

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi is a colourful man of unbounded sexual enthusiasm with a penchant for young girls of easy virtue. He has figured in a succession of sex scandals. A recent one was his alleged involvement with a Moroccan girl nicknamed Ruby who denied any sexual intimacy with the Premier,and asserted that “he never laid a finger on me.” She,however,admitted that she was paid 7,000 euros in cash because of her economic condition. Apparently,Berlusconi is an over-generous person,overflowing with the milk of human kindness. The latest shot is fired by Iris Berardi,a teenager,who according to prosecutors is a well known prostitute. She alleged that she had attended Berlusconi’s wild parties at his villas in Sardina and near Milan. Berlusconi remains gallantly unfazed despite the Pontiff’s recent statement that persons in high positions should conform to moral principles. Calls for Berlusconi’s ouster from rival politicians is not surprising but his behaviour has become unbearable for Italian women,thousands of whom have signed a petition for his stepping down. Will Berlusconi heed the call or dismiss it as politically and sexually motivated?

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