A raid on the Constitution?

Physical attacks on young people like the one on youngsters at a homestay in Mangalore recently, are being attributed to the “drinking culture” prevalent among the youth, thus blaming the victims instead of the perpetrators, in a huge subversion of justice. Chairperson of the Women's Commission, Ms C. Manjula has identified this “drinking culture" as a bigger problem which deserves more attention than the violence unleashed by the attackers. In its report, the Women's Commission has accused the victims of consuming drugs, which the police had found no evidence of.

The mandate of the Women's Commission, incidentally, is to protect the rights of women. But going by the recent comments of its various members, this mandate seems to have got somewhat skewed, to say the least. Ms Manjula is supported by members of the Karnataka State Temperance Board, some Gandhians, and former chairperson of the Women's Commission, Pramila Nesargi.

Vigilantes’ moral lectures go against law, angers many Suggestions like making it mandatory to get a licence to hold parties and banning alcohol consumption, to stop the Mangalore-like attacks, are not only absurd but also primitive. It is disturbing to see how some people in responsible posts have assumed the role of moral police and are not only passing judgement on the youth for choosing to live the way they want but are also coming out with ideas that go against the basic tenets of the Constitution of India that allows individuals their Right to Live.

Saying that a licence is needed to hold a party where alcohol is served is absurd when adults drinking in private is legal in India. Former chairperson of the Women's Commission, Pramila Nesargi, actually points to the repressive Saudi Arabian regime as an example we should follow. “Saudi Arabia has a law for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. They have formed a committee in this regard. We, in India, do not have a statute or a commission to deal with such issues,” she says. It seems to have escaped the notice of such self-proclaimed moralists that we do not have such laws because they are against the ideology that the Constitution of India follows, which allows an individual many fundamental rights, including the Right to Life and Right to Freedom.

The Right to Life includes protection of life and personal liberty. Article 21 declares that no citizen can be denied his life and liberty except by law. This leaves no scope for 'vigilantes' or moral police and commissions to impose restriction on an individual's freedom. This also implies that a person's life and personal liberty can only be disputed if that person has committed a crime. “Why should the moral police in the disguise of State authorities be allowed to go on with this silly talk? Why does the State government not act to shut them up?” asks Deep Trehan, a law student.

“The State government should rubbish the report and the subsequent comments of the Women’s Commission and the like. The police investigation report is what the government should focus on and it must punish the guilty. This moral lecture is demeaning to the victims, who have suffered already,” said M.C. Nanaiah, JD(S) leader.

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