India is the world’s largest democracy and one of the most essential feature of any working
democracy is the application of ‘Rule of Law’. The concept of ‘Rule of Law’ emanates from the basic
idea of ‘Equality before Law’. It means no man is above law and that every person, whatever be his rank or conditions,
is subject to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts. This also reminds us that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land
and all institutions are subservient to the provisions of the Constitution.
After the arrest of Sankaracharya in an alleged murder case, this whole issue of ‘Rule
of Law’ has been brought to the focus. By arresting a person of his stature, the establishment has proved that no one
is above law and all citizens, including the ‘most respected’ in the society, have to go through the same ordeals
as anybody else, in such a serious charge.
But in the working of the ‘Rule of Law’ in India, it is evident that some are ‘more
equal than others’. Unlikely to the normal image of the Indian police, the Tamil Nadu police was more than polite and
courteous to the Sankaracharya. A common man cannot expect such humanitarian behaviour from the police, even if he is not
accused of a crime. A visit to the police station for filing a complaint can be a horror for many ordinary citizens.
‘Third degree’ treatments are still a reality in India. Those who are picked up
by the police, for any alleged offence is subject to various inhuman investigative mechanisms in our country. There are many
instances of lock-up deaths in our country. But no such ill- treatment was meted out to the respectful ‘seer’.
That means there can be a different treatment if one has a reverential position in the country.
When senior politicians like Laloo Prasad and Uma Bharati were arrested, guest houses were converted
as jails. But ordinary citizens will have to content with the totally deplorable state of affairs in the jail. Sankaracharya
was provided with special facilities of food, special provisions for his daily prayers, special chair when produced in front
of a magistrate and so on.
I am not in any way advocating the withdrawal of these facilitates to the Sankaracharya. But
if ‘Rule of Law’ is the basic principle of democracy, then we should provide all these facilities to the common
It’s also clear that ‘Rule of Law’ is more applicable to the poor. Charles
Dudley Warner once said, "I am surprised in visiting jails, to find so few respectable looking convicts". It means both rich
and poor commit crimes, but poor are convicted more. This is a stark reality in India. We rarely hear about the rich, the
influential or the politicians being punished for an offence and being sent to the jail.
India needs to go a long way in achieving ‘Rule of Law’ in the true spirit. As long
as almost half of the society lives in abject poverty and is illiterate, the consciousness about the rights may not come.
For that, all-round development of the society is a prerequisite. Till then, let us pray that, we the ordinary citizens of
the country will never be strained to encounter the police and the law in any grave charge. If we are forced to such a scenario,
then we will realize how ‘unequal we are’ in this democratic nation, though Article 14 clearly states that ‘All
are equal before law’.