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Opinion: THE ‘EGO’ OF LAW


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Ashit Kumar Srivastava (AKS)
Assistant Professor-Law
Amity Law School, Amity University  

Most of the archaic jurists of the Ancient era were fundamentally pre-occupied with the idea of stabilizing human society, in pursuit of which they routinely use to arm law with unimaginable power or sanction. However, with the growing of rational, the laws rationalize too and much sternness was paid to the purpose of the law, however, with the coming of the 18th century much of the archaic value of norms were resurged with the advent of Austin. Unlike Bentham, Austin was much obsessed with how the law was perceived by his subjects whereas Bentham emphasized on the purpose of the law: stabilizing the society. Austin in his pursuit over-emphasized the role of law, as not a means of stabilizing the society but as an archaic power which needs to be respected irrespective of whether it serves any purpose or not.  This is where Austin has overdone or rather over-compensated in his pursuit of laying down a precise and pure definition of law: un-compounded and determinative.

The law becomes so powerful that it is perverted from its rightful path and rather it follows a path contrary for the purpose it was invented for. Let us take an example, in a shabby little town of Gaurai there was not much to celebrate about, much away from the lime light of city and complacent in its mediocrity, however not long ago the town was grappled with the havoc of drought: which had let their land barren with shortage of drinking water too, the peasants were not coping very well with this shortage of resources and most of them, like others, were surviving on debts taken from moneylenders or banks with their gigantic interest on it. Sooner the privilege of credit ran into being a bane for them, notice after notice and reminders after reminders from moneylenders had diminished their happiness. To avoid the pressure created by money-lenders, most of them opted to end their misery by taking their life. One of such peasant was Kumar who had just married but couldn’t bear the pressure of expenses of daily life and so Kumar went to the infamous Suicide Hill of Gaurai, where most people visited to end their misery.

Meanwhile the district administrators of Gaurai was concerned at the rate at which most people were committing suicide in their regions, which had brought much shame to their administration, therefore to overcome this the district administrator ‘Viju’ went through all legal documents to analysis the legality of suicide, it came to his notice that The Criminal Code of Gaurai already had laws for stopping of suicides, however, the law was being played by the farmers, this piece of knowledge irked Viju to his roots and he came up with an idea for invoking respect for Suicide laws, and after few amendments, the new law on Suicide was as follow:

‘Hereby, it is declared that any native of Gaurai whether minor or adult, whether man or woman, if found or heard to be found attempting or even moving his smallest of muscles towards committal of suicide shall be shot on sight with no questions asked’  

The amendment law on suicide did invoke awe of the natives of Gaurai but was reluctant to produce any fruitful result, on the contrary, from that day onward more suicides were being committed, this bewildered ‘Viju’ who couldn’t understand that why such severe a law couldn’t command any sort of respect from his subjects. To which one of his fellow subordinates replied, ‘My Sire! Much like the old administrator, you are trying to fight fire with fire which by their very nature will only increase it, just suppose a native of your town, standing at the suicide hill fully determine to end his life, with no passion of life and fear of none, will he fear a small .44 cm bullet’ to which ‘Viju’ agreed, and asked for intellectual help for drafting new law on prohibition of suicide to which the subordinate replied ‘My Pleasure Sire!’ and after few ponderous days the new law was as follow

       ‘Hereby, it is declared that any native of Gaurai whether minor or adult, whether man or woman, if found or heard to be found attempting or even moving his smallest of muscles towards committal of suicide shall be shot at sight along with his family members with no questions asked’

The new decree of the city administrator even shook ‘Death’ to his core, the new laws on suicide was so stringent that even the hardest of men could not think of breaching it. Within few months the result of new laws was out, the suicide rate at Gaurai was diminished to a rather negligible number. The city administrator patted their backs and Viju became an iconic ideal overnight for other administrators across the country and Kumar who was about to suicide from the suicide hill was shot along with his family at the city square.


Points to be analysed

What Viju did in order to invoke respect for a redundant law (suicide law) was something almost Hitleric in nature, the main irk of Viju was not the number of suicide being committed by his native but rather the manner in which they were breaching his code of laws. Let us keep ‘Austin’ in place of ‘Viju’ and we could easily see that Austin would have done the same, he would have double the sanctions to ensure that the law is being followed no matter what purpose the law is/was serving and here we notice how to satisfy the ego of the law, Viju aka ‘Austin in hiding’ goes to an extent and arms law with an unimaginable and arbitrary power.          




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