On December 9th 2015, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi proudly proclaimed that he would rather go to jail than apply for bail or sign a personal bond . However, when he appeared in the court in the National Herald case ten days later, the mainstream media was swift to draw parallels between him and Indira Gandhi.
‘Like grandma, like grandson: Rahul prefers jail over bail’ screamed a Hindustan Times article. A Telegraph story too followed suit as it quoted Congress Party sources as saying that Rahul would not seek bail as he is ‘convinced’ that the Narendra Modi-led government “plotted” the legal trouble for his mother and himself.
Rahul tried hard to draw parallel with his grandmother, who was jailed in 1977 by the Janata government . Indira Gandhi’s arrest, then, helped bolster public sympathy as she defied arrest by Delhi policemen in what was alleged to be “vendetta,” by the Janata government. The Congress hoped that, in a similar repeat of sorts, Rahul’s move would fetch favour. That, however, didn’t quite happen as Rahul was forced to pay the bail of Rs 50,000 .
While bail is the prerogative of an accused in any democracy, as bail is preferred to jail, it doesn’t absolve the accused of guilt as is commonly and wrongly perceived.
Now, the time in which bail is granted has little to do with the merits of the case. It is a preliminary procedure and has to satisfy a few tests to hold good. Headings such as ‘The Congress turn legal setback into political victory in just three minutes’ leading to stories that elaborate a Congress stand and absolve it of implications seem like a parallel trial of sorts and qualify as ‘contempt.’
Now, when a celebrity or a politician breaks the law before being “hounded by the media,” and finally arrested, it is touted as ‘trial by the media’ but when the media supports the celebrity or politician and campaigns endlessly for the release of an accused, it is not perceived as a trial by the media but instead seen as an attempt to safeguard a celebrity who has been “wrongly targeted” for his/her status. Now, isn’t that so skewed? Ironically, in a democracy, the onus of auditing the media rests upon the media itself. And, the media is ‘free’ to flay, endlessly and mindlessly, those who don’t matter yet extend ‘conditional support’ to the rich and powerful.
The issue of bail and all things upright fetches to memory Mahatma Gandhi’s first satyagraha in Bihar’s Champaran, where he went at the request of poor peasants to inquire into the grievances of those exploited in the district compelled by British indigo planters to grow indigo on 15 per cent of their land and part with the whole crop for rent. That the Mahatma had arrived to inquire into their sufferings spread and thousands left their villages to have his darshan and to relate to him their woes.
The local administration was all riled up and the police superintendent ordered Gandhi to leave the district. Gandhi refused and was summoned to appear in court the next day. Thousands of peasants followed him to court. The embarrassed magistrate postponed the trial and released him without bail. Gandhi refused to furnish any bond.
The case was later withdrawn and Gandhi proceeded with his inquiry. Gandhi went on to educate the peasants about satyagraha . Even as he taught people to fight for their rights, he taught them to fulfill obligations. The Government was obliged to set up a committee of inquiry. The report of the committee of which Gandhi was a member went in favour of the tenant farmers.
For the family, which consistently attempts to bear allegiance to Mahatma Gandhi, there’s a lot to learn. It may be recalled that after having spent many years outside Bharat, Gandhi reacquainted himself with the land of Bharat and swapped his Western-style dress for the simple robes of a peasant. So, when invited to speak at the opening of the Banaras Hindu University in February 1916 before an audience of princes in elegant robes, he tendered a humble apology for speaking in English — a language foreign to him, in the sacred city. He went on to address the princes by saying, ‘There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewellery and hold it in trust for your country men.’ Many princes walked out. But Gandhi stood tall in his dhoti…unwavering in stance and spirit. Now, such is the might of a resolve.
The might of a resolve pivots only on the truth. Nothing less will do.