The Beer Man is again in the news! My dad discussed a particular point with me that is very important and about which there seems to be no mention vis-a-vis the Beer Man. So I wish to delve on that in length here.
For those who do not know about the Beer Man, here are the details in brief. A person named Ravi Kantrole was arrested about 2 years back and accused of around several murders in and around South Mumbai. The bodies were then left on the footpath till the police arrived on the scene (always after the crime). In some cases, he was found next to the bodies of the victims, in some cases he left a beer bottle as a clue, etc. The police arrested him and charge sheeted him for the muders. A trial ensued, narco analysis and lie-detector stuff implicated Ravi Kantrole, as the police claimed and then he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the lower court.
I guess everyone seemed to have forgotten about him when a few days back, a glaring news item reported that the Beer Man was set free by the High Court due to various reasons. The trial refused to admit some of the narco analysis test results, also claimed that the witnesses were false, etc. They threw all the proof against the Beer Man out and he has been set free. It is also supposed to be a major embarrassment for the Mumbai Police.
OK — the story ends there but leaves a lot of questions unanswered. But specifically I wish to focus on the lack of punishment in this case. When I mean punishment, I do not mean it for the Beer Man. He as been punished enough if look at the case at face value. Look at the points below:
- Conceptually here is a man who has been accused of something that the court now says is not true.
- The man has been put behind bars for 2 years. He has lost 2 years of his life due to errors (if that is true).
I am not for even one moment trying to conclude whether the Beer Man is guilty or not? I do not know that and it is not the topic of this post. What really concerns me is that you could easily substitute yourself in place of the Beer Man and get accused for something that you did not do, spend some of your best years behind bar for no fault of yours and be told one fine day that you can go free since we do not think that you are guilty. Thank you and Bye Bye. This is exactly how it could be played out if you are someone without the ability to pull strings.
The Beer Man’s case is not an isolated incident. It has been happening with regularity. People have been arrested under the guise of rioting, etc but have then been released after 10 or even more years. People have been put behind bars under economic offenses which they did not commit. Most of the innocents end up being a mental wreck and one cannot even imagine the effect that it must be causing on their family. Does it happen only in India? Definitely not. But that cannot be used as an argument to justify your actions.
What I need to understand is that in a civil society, if you wrongly accuse someone, take away 2 years of his life and then release him saying that you committed errors is not making sense at all. What about the party that was responsible for arresting,accusing the person and getting him wrongly convicted ? We need to punish them to set the record straight and along with that a precedent that will demonstrate to all to be careful in the future. Every action needs to have a consequence and wrongful actions need be to dealt a punishing blow so that one does not take such actions as the norm and try to get away with it.
Who should be punished in this case? Definitely as the legal thing goes, anyone who breaks the law needs to be punished. In this case it looks it is not the Beer Man who has broken the law but someone else. Who is this someone else? Is it the state machinery , the police, the false witnesses,etc. Yes, I think so.
As Tomas Szasz said “If he who breaks the law is not punished, he who obeys it is cheated. This, and this alone, is why lawbreakers ought to be punished: to authenticate as good, and to encourage as useful, law-abiding behavior. The aim of criminal law cannot be correction or deterrence; it can only be the maintenance of the legal order.
Has any punishment being given out so far for taking a man’s 2 years? No. The only punishment I seem to be reading about is embarrassment. The newspapers claimed that the police has got embarrassed due to the Beer Man’s release. Embarrassed? Is that the punishment we are talking about? I am sure anyone who has blundered like that will gladly accept “embarrassment” as a punishment than to actually being punished in tangible terms. Putting a person behind bars for years for a crime that he may not have committed and potentially making a mental wreck out of him, is tantamount to murdering the person in all but physical terms. That is a crime too if you ask me and it should be dealt with severe punishment.
The choice is ours. As Leonardo Da Vinci said “He who does not punish the wrong, commands it to be done”. That my friends is probably the sad reality of the world we exist in.