Should law be interpreted by the dictates of political expediency rather than by principles of logic? If not, how is one to explain the latest dose of justice dished out by the Supreme Court (SC)? The SC has ruled that members of banned organizations cannot be treated as criminals by the police till they indulge in or incite violence. This ruling came in relation to a case involving ULFA member Arup Bhayan who had been convicted by a Guwahati court under the lapsed TADA law.
The acquittal is politically welcome. Right now peace talks with ULFA are progressing favourably. Leniency towards its members is desirable. But the appropriate manner of extending the olive branch would be for the government to offer a conditional amnesty proposal. It cannot be achieved by the SC passing a judgment that defies logic and in the future could tie up the government in knots.
How can one legally be the member of an organization that is itself illegal? As for “indulging in or inciting violence”, cannot very substantial help be rendered to a banned organization without resorting to either option? Suppose a computer wizard aids a banned terrorist organization with his expertise to facilitate transmission of information unrelated to violent activity but otherwise crucial, would that render the member of a banned organization non-criminal? Other examples can be summoned to expose the dangerous consequences that can flow from this latest SC ruling. The honourable judges would do well to focus less on the problems besetting society and more on interpreting the spirit of law as it is intended.