The Law is an Ass II

The thought of Mr Bumble’s reaction about the law (as told in Dickens’ Oliver Twist) quickly flashed into my mind when I was told that it would not allow my dead body to travel Hindu-fashion from my home to the crematorium, i.e. in an open bamboo frame bordered with leaves and flowers, but that it had to go in a closed coffin inside a closed vehicle.

I am not the only one to have had that thought – others have called me up to confirm this view.

One caller has gone so far as to say that he has recently started a service offering facilities like those of the established undertakers but intended for Hindus who prefer travel to the final departure point1 in open vehicles, bathing in the sunlight and the rain; the lawyer he had consulted with had apparently told him that there was nothing against his offering such a service. What Mr Bumble thought of the law we know; thank God he did not speak his mind about lawyers too!

I have informed the would-be Hindu undertaker that I appreciate his kind offer very much, and that I would rush to subscribe to it once the Ministry of Health has taken a stand on the issue publicly, confirming or denying the information that current laws stand in the way of Hindu funeral practices concerning the transportation of bodies, and, if yes, takes steps to amend the law appropriately. I trust that this is a matter that the Minister can attend to by amending subsidiary legislation, and that he won’t have to go to Parliament for it.

Going to Parliament with anything, however trifling, has its own risks and perils. Look at what has happened to dear Mr Pravind Jugnauth: while everybody in his senses agrees that he has committed no crime and is absolutely guiltless, the law does not think so – and the law ties the hands of the judiciary, unless they can find reasons to say it is unconstitutional or otherwise invalid.

Who made the law that condemned Mr Pravind Jugnauth, and in what circumstances? One recalls ECO, rumours about their intending to question a Minister, a rush to amend the Constitution and abolish ECO to stop that, and create this new “foolproof” law to let nobody, absolutely nobody, having committed the slightest error escape the clutches of the law; the reasoning that leads from “a minister being under suspicion” and letting him go scot-free to the new law being made as stiff as it has been made is not clear to us laymen, devoid as we are of any sense of legality and proportion. Or is quidproquoism a recognised principle in legal drafting? Wasn’t that Minister lucky! One thinks of not only who wrote that law, but also of who was then the head of the Cabinet and of the Government.

When Mr Bumble was speaking his mind about the Law, the term “lawmaker” had not yet come into use in England. Members of Parliament were just referred to as such, or MPs for short. But had Mr Bumble known the term, he might have had to say a thing or two not just about the Law and Lawyers, but about Lawmakers too!

1While people of other faiths travel to their final “resting places”, Hindus travel to their final “departure points”, where they dissolve into the elements (space, fire, air, water and earth).

*  Published in print edition on 10 July 2015

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