Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dispensing Justice on the Spot: Television Channels and the World of Criminals

A Malayalam weekly goes to town with a story of a gun-runner turned sanyasin, and another channel says this man is innocent: A clash of media titans or a travesty of legal systems...?

SPIRITUALITY IS a big business and one advantage in this line is that it helps you build an aura of respectability and invincibility as the dress covers up all the dark and shady aspects of life.

That perhaps explains why an arms runner on the Interpol’s look out decided to turn a sanyasin, set up an ashram and enjoy life with a brand new wife he managed to get despite stiff resistance from the first and a police complaint against him by the aggrieved first party.

The episode is now making waves in Kerala as the police are on the hunt for the missing swami, who appears to have been given sufficient time for his escape by the keepers of law and order as it is now known that a large number of top cops in the city were in the habit of taking ‘spiritual service’ from the swami’s posh guest house.

Such sleazy things are not uncommon, and they are the bread and butter of every reporter on crime beat, but this time what makes it worthy of commenting upon is the way the media took an active and partisan role in the whole affair.

It was Kerala Sabdam, well-known Malayalam weekly with a penchant for investigative reporting, that broke the story of the swami who was a gun-runner. It had made a thorough job of it and had unearthed the various complaints against the swami in India and abroad and the Interpol notice for him that had been sent out to various countries. In fact even before the story had hit the news stands, copies of the magazine had been made available to senior police officials in the city so that they could take action to prevent the bird flying away, it seems.

But they chose to ignore it and it was only two days later when other newspapers took it up, that they went for a raid of the premises. What they got and what they hide are matters of speculation as different newspapers gave different versions about it. And there is no official word about the raid and its outcome.

That is as it should be as no police official could speak about an ongoing investigation nor could he conduct it online or though the pages of a newspaper or magazine.

But those on the run seem to think otherwise. They seem to realize that they could conduct a campaign through the media, thus outwitting and even defeating a legal system, howsoever corrupt or inefficient it might be. This morning, I saw a person alleged to be the main accomplice of the accused swami/gun runner, on the television, being interviewed by a TV reporter in a running car. This gentleman claimed that the police were barking up the wrong tree and the real culprits were elsewhere. As for him he had done nothing wrong and would present himself to the authorities when he pleases to do so…

Watching the scene, I was struck by the nonchalance of the man in the car and the way the interviewer conducted himself. He was presenting an absconder from the law to the world and telling them that this man was a nice, guileless gentleman…

Well, now why do we need a law and order mechanism and courts of law when we have such television channels ready to dispense justice on the spot?

PS: Towards the evening the controversial swami himself was on the small screen, at another channel, claiming that he was not the person the police were looking for. It was a case of goofed up identity. The drama thickens really and the TRP ratings climb...

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