Is Trapping & Entrapment the Same?
No, it is not. A simple example will bring clarity. Suppose a thief enters your home at night. You hear him. So, you shut and lock the bedroom door, get out of the window, lock the front door from outside and, voila! The thief is trapped inside. Everybody praises you for catching the crook, for your presence of mind and, of course, your bravery. You did the right thing and no one can fault you.
You are very happy. You are the neighbourhood hero. People point you out. The old chest swells. You want to do more. You want to catch all those crooks in the world. There is no stopping you now. So you leave your front door open at night and wait for a few days for some silly man to enter. It is an invitation that some one or the other will not be able to resist. The poor sop enters. And you nab him.
Trapped or entrapped? The first act is valid, the second is coloured.
Some of our older readers will remember a movie called The Horsemen, starring Jack Palance. It has a narrative about a man leaving temptation in the path of a boy. The verdict is to punish the man for leaving a dangling apple. Maybe, Afghan laws are a throwback Judeo-Christian morals and to the supposed vile of a temptress and the original sin.
So what does all this have to do with our laws?
Those who travelled on the Firozepur-Janta long ago will recall that the train used to stop on platform3 instead of platform1, the normal one for down trains at Umbergaon. This was necessary for faster trains to overtake. It was a nuisance for most daily commuters who had to catch ST buses close to platform1 on the west. As the horde charged out of the Janta onto platform3, then onto platform2 of the island platform, then across the up & down tracks, climbing onto platform1, the time was ripe for easy pickings by the railway police.
One such enthusiastic cop marched a dozen or so offenders every day to the local magistrate who duly fined them. Good cop. Did his job unfailingly. Filled the state coffers with so many fines. Swollen chest!
Till one day, he arrested a lawyer.Courts may be impatient with arguments by persons appearing on their own but they have to defer to advocates. The lawyer readily admitted his guilt and also agreed that he should be fined... BUT...
He asked the court a pertinent question. He asked whether it was right for the policeman to wait on platform1 to nab law-breakers or whether it was his primary duty to stand on platform2 and prevent people from crossing.
Now you be the judge.
The magistrate was a gem. He had the moral courage to agree with the lawyer, ordered that the fines be returned and fined the cop for dereliction of duty and entrapment. The police have a greater duty to prevent crime rather than wait for it to happen.
No matter what people say, we do have some good judges. Yet, it still happens every day. The cops hide in some shady corner way after the traffic lights and fine drivers for breaking through the signals. The cops may be fulfilling their monthly ‘quota’ but the practice needs be condemned. Entrapment is wrong.
Will someone draw the attention of the commissioner of police (traffic) to this? And here is something you can do. If ever a cop wrongly, repeat wrongly, stops you for violating a traffic signal from a hiding spot, you can threaten to march him to the police station for dereliction of duty—i.e., being away from the junction that he was supposed to be at.
It’s been done. With good results.
PS. Try the stunt in paragraph 1 only if you live on the ground floor!!!!
Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected] or [email protected]
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