The law, it is said, is a serious thing. It is not to be scoffed at, especially in these days of yahapalanaya when the law is applied equally to one and all and is allowed to take its course wherever that might lead, if it leads anywhere that is. It may, of course, meander like [...]


Goat makes an ass of the law


The law, it is said, is a serious thing. It is not to be scoffed at, especially in these days of yahapalanaya when the law is applied equally to one and all and is allowed to take its course wherever that might lead, if it leads anywhere that is.

It may, of course, meander like the Mahaweli or get stuck like garbage clogging an antiquated drainage system in residential Colombo. That is not surprising say skeptics who point their accusing fingers at the recent contretemps over the appointment of an attorney-general.

It might have been better, they say, if the selection had been handed over to the Lotteries Board which could then have drawn the winning number after selling tickets to the public who could hit the jackpot by naming the winner. These days when the finance ministry seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel to find the money to make ends meet, even a small contribution is not to be dismissed with the hauteur that our money bags reserve for the hoi polloi struggling to buy a buth packet.

Surprising that our freshly sprouting nationalists – some pseudo, some ultra – did not protest opposite the Finance Ministry demanding we go to the Lotteries Board instead of the IMF. But then they were probably too busy collecting coconuts to worry overly about some visiting IMF types who could have learnt a thing or two from how our public institutions function.

It seems even the President could not make up his mind on which of the three prospective AG candidates would be best suited for the job. So he had kicked it to the Constitutional Council which had kicked it back to the head of state and requested him to reduce the listed names by 33 1/3 rd per cent. That is according to news reports some of which cannot be trusted to reveal the truth as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reminded us all the other day.

So kicking names from one side to the other seemed, to me at least, a funny thing to do. All this time I was under the impression that the task of the CC (if I might abbreviate it for purposes of convenience not denigration of the illustrious members of an equally illustrious body that is expected to make yahapalanaya run smoothly) is to approve or reject a single nominee submitted to it.

We laymen may be wrong of course and the real purpose of the Con. Council is to make the selections itself, never mind what the constitutional amendments say. Otherwise how would one explain the Con. Council asking for two names instead of the one it is supposed to agree to or kick into the long grass or wherever those who fail to get the nod, end up?

One knows that there are many ardent pre-election supporters who lament what is going on in the name of good governance and what not. But there are still others who consider all this a big joke fathered on a naïve public which thought that a bright new dawn was about to rise from just below the horizon.

A joke it might be. But surely it cannot beat last week’s story out of India. As a starter to a recital of sheer farce that would be hard to beat in our own country which is replete with comic talent – official and unofficial – some of which will be tested before long, one presumes.

Talking of humour and farce just recently I wrote about Marx (Groucho not Karl) who could not horsewhip somebody because he did not have a horse. This tale is about another four-legged animal, this time a goat.

In some little-known Indian town the local police took into custody a goat on a charge of trespass. This particular goat, it would appear, is a repeat offender. The police apparently sprung into action because the complainant was a judge who had previously too had been annoyed by the goat’s conduct.

What got the judge’s goat seems to be the actual goat’s nasty habit of going into the garden in the judge’s residence and chewing up his flowers and foliage. What the goat had against the judge has not been mentioned by the media that reported it leaving one wondering at the state of the media today. A compassionate judge, as he appears to be, would have pardoned a goat munching a flower or two in his garden. But it seems this four-legged creature was making a habit of annoying the judge, which of course, is a fatal thing to do. So the judge who happened to be a Judicial Magistrate – and a First Class one too – contacted the local police which immediately arrested the goat who found himself on the horns of a dilemma (he actually had a lovely pair of horns), if one might put it like that, because it found itself in a police station which is not the safest place to be in as Sri Lankans are quite aware from experience.

Anyway the enterprising police found the goat’s owner named Abdul Hasan and brought him along to the station where he was charged on two counts of criminal trespass and mischief causing damage to the judge’s garden. Leave alone trespassing poor Hasan had not even touched the judge’s vegetables.

But the law in its wisdom calls this vicarious liability. Vicarious it would have been if Hasan’s liability was a two-legged one instead one on four legs. But when it comes to unraveling the intricacies of the law, how many legs one has hardly matters. What one needs is a leg to stand on, legally speaking.

So the real culprit – the goat – got away while owner Hasan was dragged into court and spent two days in custody because he refused bail. Anyway the moral is why look as far as Chhattisgarh state in India when those in Sri Lanka are quite accustomed to the antics of the police and the sheer determination of all to protect and preserve judicial integrity.

No tale whether tragedy or farce can reach a denouement without politicians getting into the act. The opposition Congress Party’s leader in that Indian state Kailesh Trivedi could not but add his two cents worth breaking into derisive laughter one presumes, over the remarks made in the police “diary” which one supposes is the equivalent of the information book at our police stations which are tampered with now and then when the police wish to alter the story or re-invent events.

Trivedi remarks that the police had recorded that the goat continued “to graze despite several warnings.” One is glad to note that, given the rate of literacy in India, there had not been any language barrier between the police and the goat and though communication had apparently been successful the goat had decided to ignore earlier police warnings.

That might be okay in India where any goat seems able to get away even when it has persistently deprived an upright judge of his foliage. But it could prove a trifle risky in Sri Lanka.

Personally I have nothing against goats having had to deal with all sorts, mostly of the two-legged variety, during a career spanning over half a century. The problem however is that over the years these goats have been proliferating and there is hardly a public body or institution into which they have not crept. So much so that today one does not have to look too far for a scapegoat.
If Roman emperor Caligula could have appointed his horse a consul surely there is nothing wrong if we sent a few goats abroad.

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