‘Massive transformation’ of the Criminal Justice System/Law and order is the latest gimmick played on the people. The sale is by Justice Minster Ali Sabry. Law and order reforms have been on the cards since independence. That is now enough, thinks the minister. This is true in a sense. How much reform as such has [...]

Sunday Times 2

And now it is ‘massive transformation’ in law and order!


‘Massive transformation’ of the Criminal Justice System/Law and order is the latest gimmick played on the people. The sale is by Justice Minster Ali Sabry.

Law and order reforms have been on the cards since independence. That is now enough, thinks the minister. This is true in a sense. How much reform as such has there been, and with what little result, to justify persisting with it? So, by changing tracks, Nidhas nidhos was brought in by Minister Sabry in an idea one year back, and Dhos sadhos just a week or so back. All this was to deal with law and order, but with not much end result either. There comes now the conjured grand idea of a massive transformation of law and order, as reported in the media just a few days ago.

All these ideas are but entwined inextricably — Reform, Transformation, Nidhas nidhos, Dhos sadhos, all for law and order. Clarification of these ideas is useful, but difficult.

Transformation is advertised for law and order, proposed by the minister. Whatever prescriptions one has had – Reform, Transformation, Nidhas nidhos, Dhos sadhos – are all done in the name of law and order, which too are inextricable. The underlying problem, however, even the minister does not seem to figure out is that law is for order, and order is from law. But that they must be dealt with separately, by different bodies, with dissimilar perspectives, is the thinking of the minister.

Devices and decoctions are resorted to in that approach of the minister.  Is the decoction inspired, a la Kali amma? Is the ‘transformation’ contrived, a la Cardinal Richelieu? The former is a matter of belief of a myth, the latter a calculation of power, as of old history, to crush dissidents and detractors.

The transformation is thus to be directed by Minster Sabry. The transformation is also to be realised through Justice Ministry committees dealing with different branches of the law. This includes criminal law directly relevant to law and order.

Transformation in law and order is then the ministerial direction. But ‘transformation’ is much more than reform for law and order. Reform has been heard of, repeatedly over the years, ad nauseum, with little result. Will anything worthy still emerge from transformation, unheard of before?

Even if the minister’s visions have some focus, the foresight and imagination of the ministry committees may not match up the new expectations. Over the years, the Justice Ministry’s contribution to law and order has been dismally low.  The criminal law processed by the ministry and sent to Parliament for legislation has been law for the lawyers, not for the people. Even the singular exception of law to directly serve the people, their effect was nullified through the ministry by amending law which served the lawyers than the people. Just one instance is cited as example: The effect law and practice for settlement of minor cases at police stations, avoiding prosecution, was served by the direct participation of the parties to the dispute. This law stood for over one hundred years but was nullified, in effect, by the 1983 Amendment through the Justice Ministry and Parliament, when its acquittal consequence was removed. The amendment served the lawyers, not the people.  The Administration of Justice Law of 1973 was similarly negated by the Ministry and Parliament in 1978. ‘Transformation’ for law and order by the same authorities may, therefore, not be more promising.

Further, the idea of transformation, instead of the old idea of reform, needs to be better understood. Guidance for meaning may, therefore, be availed of from the dictionary. The dictionary offers that transformation incurs a dramatic and radical change. The example of the transformation of the caterpillar to butterfly is cited in explanation. A similar idea cannot extend to law and order. The dictionary meaning also extends to a change is disposition, possibly of the law to the relevant parties in the process of law and order. Another meaning considers a means in law and order that adds value to the process. Yet another consideration is the dictionary meaning of transformation touching on genetic alteration. These shades of meaning spread, therefore, much wider over the idea of transformation that is not applicable to law and order.

Reform, too, of law and order has over the years meant little that was tangible. So, reform in the mouth of all and sundry was then with little idea of what development it entails. There is much doubt, therefore, whether the 2021 constitutional reforms likewise, currently being considered, will have any clearer idea of what reform or transformation or other change is contemplated.  The public may well be left with transformation not much different from Nidhas nidhos, Dhos sadhos, not even for the revamping of the Police, the Minister of Police said in terms of reform or transformation he may have had in his own mind.

Transformation is then the word, if not the buzz word, not to be couched in yet more rant and harangue.  Transformation also invokes some exhortation heard of even in churches.  Then their range would even touch from the sublime to the secular. This may have been the calculation, that it has a more resounding effect as it is spoken. For surely such echo is possible against numbed silence of others around who may only yield, as perhaps the likes of Louis XIII and higher notables referred to in an earlier article of mine, or even among the lower tier as the Committees in the Justice Ministry. ‘Transformation’ to such state of mind and habit in the ministry will be problematic for Sabry to steer through the ministry committees.

‘Transformation’ in the declaration by Minister Sabry is also to take place in two tiers: one political and the other by officials and professionals. Unfortunately, there is a serious problem Sabry may face in the experts empanelled by the Government. The strong criticism against these experts is that they are politically and in expertise bankrupt, such that it is doubted they can make a serious contribution to law reform.  If the competence needed in the experts is not clearly spelt out, this declaration by the minister is only for its mesmerising tactical need, a la Cardinal Richelieu. Cardinal Richelieu did adopt this ploy at times as history tells. Such call is even a diversion, economic or legal or even public health. The strategy is then political as it lurks underneath. History is repeating itself.

‘Transformation’ can only be a superficial and cosmetic divergence. Sabry understands this connotation only too well and the fact that he can yet sell his idea among the dumb likes of Louis XIII above, below, and all around him, to crush a la Cardinal Richelieu, any dissenting faction prowling below, speaks to his cunning.

The real need is reform to bring about a radical change of disposition of courts, the law professionals, the AG, and the police in the larger interest of the public.

Unless the reforms are constructively lined with the ‘real need of the public’, as stated above, things may only return to profit business as usual.

(The writer is a Retired Senior Superintendent of Police. He can be contacted at seneviratnetz@gmail.com TP 077 44 751 44.)


Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.