By Santosh Desai – The is the reason why filing a First Information Report in India is so difficult; the possibility of a negotiated settlement often takes precedence over the application of the law.
Power when dangled over these situations has a way of pushing those involved towards a negotiated understanding; not surprisingly, the powerful and connected have the upper hand in such a situation.
The preservation of status quo in an environment of rules requires both an exaggerated formalization of rules as well as a great willingness to bend these in order to get a desired outcome. The apparent intractability of the rules is used as an incentive nudging those involved towards a negotiated settlement.
The success of this gambit depends on the ability to move dramatically between a position that argues that the rules are completely fixed to one that allows for complete flexibility just this once.
The use of power to cement existing reality rather than to alter it seems to be the motivation at work here. In theory, rules are rules, and everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, no matter who is involved. In practice, this is far from being the case.
For starters, rules in India are constructed so that in many cases, it is virtually impossible to implement them blindly, so complex, onerous and far removed from reality are they. This makes rules contingent by necessity; and it is this flexibility in the application of rules that creates both corruption as well helps move things along.
But above all, it keeps a form of social order intact. The legislative and administrative systems in India are subservient to the social ecosystem, and work within its ambit. Power thus becomes a social instrument that needs to be brokered keeping the dominant interests in mind. The disinterested application of the law is not possible in a context where these interests take priority. Hierarchies are respected, networks are nurtured, money speaks loudly, and settlements are negotiated.
The idea of the ‘settlement’ which finds a measure of mutual self-interest being catered to is only thinly related to abstract notions of justice. The poor and weak ‘accept’ an unfair resolution because the alternative is much worse.
What are otherwise their rights become favors that they seek from the powerful for a price. The powerful build constituencies by creating a cumbersome system and then offering a way to navigate the same. more>