Saturday, November 11, 2006

Law of Diminishing Returns

Sometime ago, one of my colleagues explained the “Law of Diminishing Returns”. Nothing exemplifies that better than what is happening right now, on our electronic media, right in front of the bean-bags in my living room.

Few months ago, a Delhi court acquitted Manu Sharma, the alleged (got to be alleged, since he has been acquitted then) killer of Jessica Lall. The court, while passing the acquittal apparently had passed strictures on how the investigations were conducted – shabbily. The News channels picked up the stories and created more stories around it. As a normal, every-day person with every-day problems and in spite of those, I was appalled. I was shocked to an extent that I wanted to do something about it; including printing bumper-stickers. At some point in time, I believed that the TV channels merely reflected the thinking and sense of injustice that seemed to have prevailed amongst the people. A few people I had talked to had a sense of hurt (Sometimes I wonder, if the TV news is a reflection and outing what the common man feels, rather than being other way around as they seem to think – ie opinion makers with the common man).

Now with the Priyadarshini Mattoo’s case closed, and the fast-track cases being flavor of the day, Jessica Lall’s case is being reopened. From my perspective, great - finally someone is waking up. And then the madness has started – perpetuated by the TV channels, which seem to whip up some kind of popular opinion. Somehow, the news channels – both NDTV and CNN-IBN seem to have believe that the judgment should be obvious, signed, sealed and deliver Manu to the hangman. Then, ofcourse, follow up with one-hour program of whether Capital Punishment should go or stay; and bask in Two-minute-packaged-noodle-type problem-solution within “We the people” and “the Verdict”.

But suddenly things did not seem to go per their script. They did not seem to foresee the "problem" of Ram Jethmalini jumping into the fray to defend the accused. This is where their behaviour bordered on stupidity to complete prejudice. The way Ms.Sagarika Ghosh was questioning (a belligerent) Ram Jethmalini, insulted the average man’s intelligence of judicial system. I still cannot understand what her problem was – was it that Manu Sharma should be pronounced guilty without a trial? Was it that a lawyer-of-repute was defending the accused? Were they scared about RJ's reputation as a lawyer that they did not want to see him the court and the possibility that he could actually win the case for his client? By badgering RJ, did SG believe that they want to obviate the need for trial – was she implying that the judicial trials were immaterial and irrelevant ?

As I was watching the program, I was thinking – hello!!! What is your issue here? As you ask everyone to have trust in the media, do also propagate the value of trust in the judiciary too. If Manu is indeed guilty and there is unimpeachable evidence around that, the courts would definitely do their jobs. The belief here is, as media is important, so is the judicial system. Believing that their (Media's) integrity is few notches above that of Judiciary is megalomaniacal and egoistical. If the evidence is flimsy and the investigation was botched up, focus on that; so that, it could be corrected.

Trying to circumvent the system is not on. I trust the system to be strong and solid enough to withstand the intelligence of Jethmalini, eventually. Assuming anything else or assuming oneself to be the sole upholder of justice is going back to the vigilante system of justice and at best, benevolent dictatorship. At some point in time, these channels' value to this case will cease to a point of zero utility. In my own mind, I believe the media is losing out on a supporter. Hearing about the acquittal in February, I wrote the following:

http://hey-rambam-ling.blogspot.com/2006/02/gods-own-country.html

Now I'm writing about the law of diminishing returns. Soon, the Media would be doing more damage to the case than help. It would be that of vanished returns.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

what do you think about capital punishment?

--interested outsider

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4IntOut: I agree, living in the Capital (Delhi) is a punishment.
(WRU ? Thanks for visiting anyways)

The Soliloquist said...

Nice take.... sometimes i get the same bittering feeling in the mouth that the insanely daring and madly courageous journalists of "captain/vijayashanthi" movies bring out when i watch people like SG and Barkha on screen... To think of it, i actually thought Rajdeep/Barkha/Karan talked sense a couple of years ago...
Its all becoming orchestrated... like WWF or something... If the crowds want drama, then drama it is...
Some one better start and anti-media campaign... Depending on the TRP, even that might get media coverage... :-P

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Sol: Maybe, I'm sure we can drive up the TRP around that. There are really quite a few folks who think on these lines...
How about starting a new "MediaWatch" blog ? :)

4IntOut: Seriously, I'm for capital punishment (with qualifiers)

The Soliloquist said...

y not?? sounds like a cool idea... ;-) But then for that, one needs to "watch" the media, whether or not one can stand it... :-D everything seems to have its downside..

DR said...

Also the growing nexus between politics and media is scary :( media watch blog would be great, not sure how effective this will be though. Even the recent debate on "to veil or not to" by a popular Indian channel was terrible and am sure would have had a negative impact on those gullible. Do we need such ....

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4DR: Yep... Very much so in my own language