When Fear and Respect for the Law Cease to Exist

For some time now I have been wondering aloud about the demonstrations that were held in Delhi and some other parts of the country. I understand candlelight walks expressing solidarity and regret, but I am unable to fully comprehend the reasons for the rest of the protests that targeted the Government. While I get the fact that the demonstrators want better safety for women and stricter implementation of the law and faster track courts to punish the perpetrators, what I am unable to get my head around is why the pot is calling the kettle black.

We are all part of a system today where the fear of the law has significantly diminished. When I was in my 20s, we were scared to run a traffic light…there was some shame attached to being caught by the cop and significant embarrassment if you had to bribe your way through and a lot of pain if you wanted to follow the actual course of law. This was also true in other spheres of life, whether it was concealment of income, embezzlement or murder. Rape unfortunately, was rarely discussed openly for a variety of social reasons.

Today, there is scant respect for the law, mostly because of the way it is enforced and partly because many of those currently in their 20s truly believe it doesn’t matter. When the system enforces drunk-driving laws strictly, we find that most people don’t drink and drive. But for all other traffic related offenses, no one bothers. Riding the wrong way or on the pavement or breaking traffic lights are issues so common place now that most people committing these offenses believe they aren’t doing anything wrong.

These are also pretty much the same people who want better implementation of rape-related laws.

Agreed that breaking traffic laws and committing rape are crimes of vastly different magnitudes and not really comparable. And if rapists were to know that when caught they would be tried within a year and sentenced and face extremely severe punishment, the incidence of rape might come down. Perhaps!

When there is a general lack of respect and fear of the law and most other public institutions, even with fast-track courts and speedy trials, it is unlikely that those who truly believe they can get away with almost anything will necessarily change.

It all starts with small things. Once you believe that you need not following traffic rules, at some point you believe that you can bribe your way through every income-tax, sales tax, customs and excise officer and then it is just one more step to more serious crime, if you have that bent of mind.

We are currently focusing on one specific issue and hiring 2000 judges to man fast track courts for rape victims and related crimes. Why can’t we do the same for other issues, so that people start believing that crime does not pay in this country? Until that happens, large masses of Indians will see no reason to follow the law of the land.

This is not to say that all those who break traffic lights are potential rapists. But if a situation were to arise, someone who is used to breaking traffic laws with impunity, instead of walking away, might just be tempted to go ahead. Those who have been protesting and demonstrating should make sure that they follow the law of the land in all aspects, not just the ones they want.

Everything is interlinked! Rape and abuse do not occur in a vacuum!


  • sunil kamath wrote:

    I doff my hat to You, Bhavin Sir…Couldn’t have put it any better..!!

  • Jayaram, M wrote:

    Hi! One – politics has become a industry by itself where all the law-makers themselves subvert it(law).
    Two – the first and only law in that jungle is – don’t get caught! –
    Three – the standard and related (higher)morality of quality education has almost disappeared, except in pockets and; in the 22nd(?) century – sex education is being shot down by people who want only sleeping pills!
    Four – there is a relation between driving & law breaking – age: 16 to 35; SUV or even M 800 & thinks that roads are race courses; high libido and no – the color of the vehicle need not be red –
    Five – might and/or a group of more than one, is right!!
    End note – oh, we respect the law – to our convenience!!

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    The same people who here break law with impunity do not attempt when abroad since they are deterred by enforcement agencies who are quick and less corrupt!

  • P. Venkatraman wrote:

    So the moot question is, “Are we law abiding or are we constable abiding?”

  • “Sab kuchh chalata hai” attitude is ingrained in the minds of majority of the youth today and to some extent the responsibility goes to their parents, teachers and the law-enforcing authority who are doing little to inculcate respect and fear of law. The decay in the moral fabric of society is evident in all aspects of life. The wrongly wealth-amassing corrupt politicians and movers and shakers of the country further make the youth believe that laws can be bypassed or bent with impunity by anyone. How will this situation change?

  • jamna varadhachary wrote:

    It is probably because the man with the moolah gets away,and brags about it, smaller fry also try. One should have zero tolerance but is that not Utopian, not likely to happen.

  • Rightly Said. I have posted similar views on facebook too. It is indeed the pot calling the kettle black. I have two boys and a girl. I am raising them all equally. There is no thought in my boys mind that the girl is the weaker sex or that we can disrespect the opposite gender. likewise for the girl. Build self esteem and give lots of love and respect. Do this at all of us and evryone of us. That should help. And Yes…. I don’t like like item numbers and other random stuff, i don’t listen to them and son’t dance to these tunes, but that is for another day and another discussion.

  • Aarti Mehta wrote:

    ” A nation is just an individual multiplied”

  • Jayesh Desai wrote:

    With due respect, I wish to point out that it is very easy for upper class people to talk of following rules. Try to tell that to poor hawker who works 14-18 hours daily& gives 30-50% of his earnings to corrupt govt employee and police. Try telling this to person who commutes 3 to 4 hours daily just to go to his work. Especially when they see around them law-breaker around them getting richer. That’s why you saw those ordinary people in streets of Delhi. Try standing in bitter cold of Delhi in front of water cannons and one will understand the levels of frustration felt by people. I am not defending lawlessness, but the implementation should begin from top. If rules and laws were followed by top 10%, you will not need police for rest of 90.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Jayesh. The people protesting were not the poor. They were the entitled middle class and above.

  • Wrong is Wrong – even if everyone does it.

    Right is Right – even if no one does it.

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    Well said and well written Bhavin!
    In short and not so sweet, “there is no respect for Law and Order”. It’s in peoples’ pockets!

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