This article is written by Vedansh Singh, from Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal. This is an exhaustive article about the manipulation of law and its use for personal gains with the situation of the current scenario.
Table of Contents
In today’s time, law and order need to be maintained and it is done with the help of a legal framework. This legal framework comprises laws and rules that are made with a moral intention to impart justice and are expected to have a positive effect that will help maintain peace and avoid any mishaps in society. But sometimes, these laws are misused by some people for their benefit. Sometimes laws that come into force have some loopholes. Some people use these loopholes to escape from liability and use the laws differently for their own benefit neglecting the moral aspect and defeating the sole purpose for which the law was made, for their own benefits. Such use of law for personal benefit is technically called legal opportunism where some laws are used opportunistically for personalized advantages when people are tempted to find ways around the law without breaking the law for various reasons. If one looks at common law rather than regulation, one can find many examples of lawsuits in which plaintiffs complain that they were manipulated by defendants and courts lend a sympathetic ear.
What is true is that many kinds of manipulations cause little harm and so people did not bother to bring lawsuits and the court may rule against victims when they do because other values are at stake. But this is true for all types of behavior. If you touch someone on his arm without his permission you commit an offense of assault, but if the person sues you and wins his damages will be zero. There are many such instances.
In this article, we will discuss how the law is manipulated by different sections of the society including the government, and the current scenario with examples of some highly and widely misused laws.
Visualizing the justice system as a self-benefiting platform
Many of the legal professionals are using the loopholes or the flaws of the legal system as an opportunity for their self-interest. These professionals have become more client-oriented and do anything they need to do for their clients which gives rise to legal opportunism. People have started visualizing the justice system as a self-benefiting platform which has led to decreased trust in the justice system. Something needs to be done as people still trust the judicial system and this needs to be maintained. Once this trust is broken, the repercussions could be drastic. As people are largely dependent on the authorities for justice and hope that justice will be imparted to them, people don’t take the law into their hands themselves and expect the justice to be imparted.
Legal opportunism is a type of abuse of the legal framework by manipulating laws for the purpose they were not meant for, guided by self-interested motives.
Legal opportunism is not something illegal or a crime. It is a kind of manipulation by exploiting the loopholes and flaws in a particular law for personal gains destroying the spirit of the law. Any legal rule which is made must be interpreted to be applied. In this case, the interpretation is the one that best suits the personal interest of the one using it. Legal opportunism involves practices such as:
- Making or amending the law, not for the welfare of its citizens or not benefiting the country as a whole, but to benefit a particular interest group in the country.
- Making or amending the laws for the benefit of lawmakers themselves.
- Applying or referring to the legal procedures or the judgements not for the sake of obtaining justice but for personal gains.
- Exploiting legal loopholes for personal gains or the advantage of a particular organisation.
- Trying to sway legal opinions or arguments and judgements which appeal to the public, but have substantively nothing to do with the case at hand.
- Using selected pieces of evidence, rules or precedents to construct a justification for a policy or a law that is in the favour of one’s own interest.
Law and personal gains – friends or foes
Law and personal gains, both these words should never go hand in hand. These two words should never be friends but always be foes. However, the current scenario speaks something else and things are happening opposite to how they should happen as law and personal gains have become friends, causing injustice to many. Law should never be used for personal use as it is something for the public interest, not personal interest. But unfortunately, today’s reality is something else. Law is used for personal gains which are becoming the cause of increased misuse of law, exposing the inability of the lawmakers to provide uniform justice to its citizens. For example, the Anti Dowry laws are one of the most misused laws in India. These laws are widely misused in India for personal gains and satisfying ulterior motives. There were four states in India in 2012, where between 40% and 67%, and eight states where between 20% and 40% of the cases under Anti Dowry Laws were found to be fake or false in the final report submitted by the national commission to the Supreme Court.
The government also uses the practice of manipulation in their own way such as others do. Government enters into various transactions for the welfare of its citizens. If the government wants to bring a change that people might resist, here the government manipulation comes into the picture.
Many people apply for various documents such as issuing a driving license, pan card or Adhaar card. These transactions include various forms and documents having long and complex text in the form of terms and conditions which are difficult for a layman to understand and people usually skip the part without even reading the text. The government can instead use simple language and can make the transaction more transparent and understandable which may lead to resistance to the policy.
We can take the example of an Aadhaar card where the concerns were raised regarding the breach of such a huge database. But a layman would never see schemes like Aadhaar with a view that the loopholes of such schemes can be used to breach their information. But the government does not provide any information about the risks of such data breaches. This is an example of government manipulation.
However, this is highly debatable whether the government manipulation is right or wrong and using such manipulation for the welfare of the citizens is acceptable or not. But if we can publicly debate on the government’s actions, approve or disapprove them based on their consequences, then we should endorse those that produce good consequences even if they involve exploitation of rights. Such exploitation poses danger to socio-political frameworks based on disrespect of an inclusive social order.
The fading away of the true purpose of law in the current scenarios
When the law is made it has certain uses. It is made for a purpose but misuse of the law fades the purpose for which a particular law was made. If we talk about current scenarios, there are many such laws that are being misused, be it reservations provided to different sections of the society or be it sedition laws or the misuse of the Right to information. Many such laws are used immorally to suppress justice rather than imparting the same. These are some examples of misused laws. Such laws are used to satisfy personal motives and reasons rather than the welfare of its citizens. Misuse and manipulation give rise to legal opportunism and motivates others to misuse the law who are in a position to do so. Once a loophole or any flaw in the law is exposed, there are many who follow the same tactic and exploit the law by misusing it. Here are some highly misused laws in India:
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
The Dowry Prohibition Act is one of the most misused laws of India and yet no modifications are made to date. The Act, which was enacted to protect the dignity of women, has become a widely misused weapon that has been manipulatively used by many for self-interest motives. Once the FIR is filed under the Act, it becomes a stooge in the hands of the police to harass the husband and his family and relatives without any prior investigation. According to the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), in 2015 nearly 300,000 people including 48,951 women, were arrested in regard to dowry offences. However, only 20% were convicted.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
This Act was primarily made to put a hold on people and associations linked with terrorism and involved in terrorist activities. The main intention of the Act was to make powers available for dealing with activities against the integrity and sovereignty of the country. It offers an overboard and ambiguous definition of a terrorist act which includes the death of, or injuries to any person or damage to any property an attempt to awe any public functionary by the means of criminal force, any act to compel the government, any person to do, or abstain from doing any act, etc. Parliament’s latest amendment to UAPA, in July 2019, has made it more dangerous giving it more scope for misuse. Now, after the amendment authorities can choose to proscribe individuals and their activities by paving the way to name individuals as terrorists even though they have no affiliation with any of the 42 terror organisations referred to in the first schedule of the Act. There are various instances when this law was misused such as:
The Delhi High Court slammed the police department for misusing UAPA. The Delhi High Court recently called the alleged misuse of UAPA in a case against three student activists Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, concluding that the cases do not fall under terrorism.
The National Security Act, 1980
The NSA, whose stated purpose was to prevent individuals from acting in a manner prejudicial to certain state objectives including the national security public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community, allows the government to detain a person up to twelve months without charges or trial or any such right that are available in the normal course. Indeed a detainee under the Act may not be even informed why he/she has been detained for up to ten days. Such sweeping powers in the hands of the state have led to the wide misuse of the Act.
A recent example is that of Allahabad High Court which quashed 94 out of 120 cases filed under the National Security Act by the Government of Uttar Pradesh. The High Court ordered the release of detainees after it quashed the cases against them. The Court considered UP government cases as the misuse of the NSA law. The Court said that the detention orders given by the magistrate lacked application of minds. The law was continuously used to deny the bail of the accused denying him of his basic legal procedure. According to different media sources most of the cases were of cow slaughter and the accused were from minority communities. The court considered that the UP government had slapped the NSA act on the accused and said that judicial custody was not required.
Suggestions to tackle the manipulation of law
There are many laws that are being misused for personal gains defeating the sole purpose for which they were enacted. Here are certain recommendations which may help to improve the situation:
- Such laws should be challenged urgently so that no more people should become the victim of such flaws.
- It is the duty of our judicial system and lawmakers that justice is imparted to the people facing injustice. The system should ensure the uniform applicability of the law to every citizen rather than misusing it for a few.
- Justice should not be in the hands of a few wealthy but should be imparted without any discrimination.
- This issue cannot be eradicated completely but manipulation can be kept under control, as long as the policy of manipulation is made clear and open to public debate. This would keep any wrong actions or misuse under scrutiny and will also regulate the misuse of the law for personal gain.
Legal opportunism is on the rise and poses a serious threat to the judicial system and its sole intent which is to impart justice. Questions are being raised constantly on such issues and steps need to be taken by the authorities. Professionals need to change the way they think, using their professionalism in raising their voice against such laws rather than using the loopholes opportunistically for self-interest. People with knowledge and experience should help lawmakers by exposing such flaws rather than using such flaws for personal gains. People need to see this issue from a broader perspective and should not narrow it down to their profits to serve the greater good of society. This is what our democracy is all about which says the government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Such issues decrease the trust of the people in the system. Distrust amongst the public is not good for the government. The legal framework is there for the betterment of society and should be used for the welfare of the citizens not for personal gains.
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