30 Oct-05 Nov, 2012
small world
In an Elephant Soup
The travails of Malayalam superstar Mohanlal can be traced to a pair of tusks

The travails of Malayalam superstar Mohanlal can be traced to a pair of tusks

Which is the best place to keep seized prop­erty? Kerala’s forest depart­ment has an answer—with the same person from whom the property was seized. In this case, Malayalam film actor Mohanlal, who has been deal­ing with a rather peculiar prob­lem after two pairs of elephant tusks were found during an Income Tax Department raid on his home last year.

A forest department enquiry revealed that a friend had gift­ed the tusks to Mohanlal. The certificate of ownership had, however, not been changed. A case was registered, but the tusks remained in Mohanlal’s possession.

An activist group, the All Kerala Anti-Corruption and Human Rights Protection Council (ACHRPC), chal­lenged this in court. The lat­ter, however, dismissed the pe­tition citing a provision in the Criminal Procedure Code that enables the investigating of­ficer to give custody of proper­ty, if it is practically difficult to move, to ‘any person executing a bond’. Obviously, this could hardly apply to tusks, and so the ACHRPC has filed an ap­peal in the High Court, which will be heard next week.
The ACHRPC claims that the tusks staying with Mohanlal risks the possible tampering of evidence. “The rule of law is applicable to eve­ryone. The rich and influential are not exempt,” says ACHRPC President Isaac Verghese.

High Court lawyer Sangeetha Lakshamana, though, sees no reason to be­lieve that evidence will be tam­pered with. “Technically, the property does not belong to Mohanlal, even if it is in his house. In fact, he has a great­er responsibility to keep the property as it is. Any tamper­ing of evidence will drag him into more trouble,” she says.

Meanwhile, the state’s Forest Minister, KB Ganesh Kumar, a former actor, sent a request letter to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to ‘give one more op­portunity to the public un­der a 2003 notification to de­clare illegal possessions of wild stock and trophies’. The cut-off time for declaration when this notification was passed had been 180 days. Kumar de­nied that he was revisiting this notification after eight years for Mohanlal’s benefit. In any case, the Centre dismissed the request.

Take Two
Moral Equivalence
How it clarifies responses to revelations of wrongdoing

Moral equivalence is used when there is no moral equivalence.

Moral equivalence is when you deliberately equate, not apples with oranges, but an encroacher of an apple orchard with a roadside vendor who sells a rotten orange. It is the sly levelling of crimes which differ in momentous magnitude.

Moral equivalence is when Anjali Damania’s conversion of agricultur­al land to non-agricultural in a market transaction is made equal in proportion to Nitin Gadkari’s company getting the state govern­ment to allot 100 acres and diverting the waters of a dam. Even if they are two immoral acts, there is no moral equivalence.

Moral equivalence in when a Supreme Court advocate, KTS Tulsi, appears on a news channel and calls it ‘scandalous’ that IAS officer Ashok Khemka passed an order after he got his transfer papers. Implying therefore that it is more or as heinous as the Haryana government’s collusion in the easy pocketing of crores by Robert Vadra. It is not.

Moral equivalence is when it is argued that Anna Hazare’s beating up of alcoholics makes him unfit to demand a Lok Pal Bill 25 years later.

Moral equivalence is when a news anchor, good intention oozing from her face, tells an India Against Corruption spokesperson, “But but there are serious allegations against your members.” But but so what?  Such equivalence is done under the garb of balanced reporting, which it is not. Moral equivalence is neces­sary for that news anchor, even though her intention is not malicious. She needs to shock viewers every single day and Gadkari and Vadra have a shelf life of a week taken together. Therefore, even if the scale of the moral infringement is 1/100, forcing a moral equivalence is necessary to be in business.

Moral equivalence is the politi­cian’s favourite shield and his favourite weapon. It is instinctive to him. So instinctive that sometimes he does not think it necessary to even explain the equivalence. Like Digvijaya Singh saying he has information on the corruption of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law and LK Advani’s daughter, thus drawing an equivalence with Vadra.

Moral equivalence works by continuous repetition until the noise drowns out the absurdity.

Hype and Flourish

When Kim Jong-Il died, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s official news agency, had reported that a fierce snowstorm paused, the sky glowed red above the sacred Mount Paektu and the ice on a well-known lake (Heaven Lake) cracked so loud, ‘it seemed to shake the Heavens and the Earth’. And it has kept up the good work. According to a story dated 21 October, the agency reports that Indian newspapers had special write-ups, setting aside an entire full page, to celebrate a number of events. These include Jong-Il’s 15th anniversary as General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK’s progenitor), the party’s 67th anniversary and the Down-with-Imperialism Union’s (considered  by North Korea as the WPK) 86th anniversary. The names of the Indian newspapers include ‘The Indian and World Event’ and ‘Passion India’. Among other things, these newspapers reportedly wrote that ‘people call the WPK, mother party’ and that First Secretary Kim Jong-Un is now ‘the great leader of this party’.