Thursday, January 24, 2008

Losing a case, goat sacrifice or guillotined?

All religious practices admit of animal sacrifices and they represent the occurrences as modes of expiation of sins that human conduct is susceptible to. Of them, goat is special. There are rituals connected to this blighted quadruped among Romans, Hitttites, Indians, and Tibetians. Our Muslim brethren have recently celebrated Bakrid. On this day a goat or Bakr (Urdu) is offered in sacrifice to commemorate the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim, who willingly agreed to kill his son at the behest of God. According to Islamic belief, to test Ibrahim's faith, Allah commanded him to sacrifice his son Ismail. He agreed to do it but found his paternal feelings hard to suppress. So he blind - folded himself before putting Ismail on the altar at the mount of Mina near Mecca. When he removed his bandage after performing the act, he saw his son standing in front of him, alive. On the altar lay a slaughtered lamb. This festival coincides with the Haj pilgrimage in Mecca. The lamb is Halal, meaning approved food. According to the Christian tradition: “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto land not inhabited" (Leviticus 16:21-2).. Kali Matha wears around her neck decapitated heads of demons slain by her to symbolize the fact that she is a protector of virtues and destroyer of evils. Kali Ma denotes the wholeness of life: life and death, beauty and ugliness, motherliness and destructiveness. The devotee attempts to replicate the example set by the goddess by slaughtering the goat bedecked with a garland. Recently, Nepal's troubled national carrier had taken a spiritual approach to maintenance troubles with one of its Boeing 757s by sacrificing two goats in front of the plane to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu god of sky protection, whose symbol is printed on all of Nepal’s aircrafts.

If slaying of goat brings revulsion, what would you say of applying guillotine as a measure of capital punishment? Remember, it was designed by Dr Joseph Guillotine, a man described as kindly and who wanted to make execution more humane. Victims were placed on a bench, face down, and their necks positioned between the uprights. The actual beheading was very quick - often to the gathered crowd's disgust - taking less than half a second from blade drop to the victim's head rolling into the waiting basket. However, debate rages over whether the quickness of the execution was humane or not, as many doctors put forward the notion that it could take up to 30 seconds before the victim lost consciousness. It may be spine chilling to imagine that the decapitated head will know for those seconds that it had been cut and killed from the rest of the body. State sponsored killing have earlier taken several gruesome forms, death by crucifixion, by slow slicing, by burning, by hanging, by electric shock, by lethal injection and now read, by guillotine again. It does not sound to be more cruel than the rest.

We are not talking about intentional murders, but state sponsored killing as corporal penalty. Judges have stood by, in the olden days to confirm that the executions were carried out comprehensively and without default. The stigma unfortunately has not worn off for our venerable judges to this day. The allusion is to dismissal of cases by the judges. Adversarial litigation ought to result in one of the parties winning and another losing. The litigant that voluntarily opts for this process has only to blame himself for ending up on the losing side and hence ought not to complain against the judge. A loser invariably talks about the knife in his neck, the arrival of smooth shaves of max III, notwithstanding. If the judge has sweet talked to an adverse judgment, it is talked of as halal, a welcome result to a worthy contest. If the dismissal is instantaneous and brooks no lengthy reasoning, it is talked of as being guillotined. Of judges, who till a short while ago, were themselves lawyers, understand all this exclusive expressions very well. Some of them even ask lawyers in good humor, what type of execution their client would want! We react in different ways. To some, withdrawal is honorable; to some others, an adjournment gets them the chance of trying their lucks with some other (sympathetic?) Bench. A sizeable few opt to take soft, kind hearted dismissals, with no costs. The majority still prefers the guillotine to retain the briefs and take chances at the higher forums.

Every litigation is a war; and all is fair in love and war, eh?

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