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A Tale of Two Tipples

No one can take advantage of his own mistakes

When Moneylife readers, and the wife, complain that my articles are too ‘Americanised’, it is time to take notice. And any advocate worth his salt will offer a defence.

American cases are better reported and the law has evolved very quickly. Also, having been on a steady diet of American cases since the age of 10, the habit is hard to break. So, this time, we bring you two cases; one American and the other Indian. The common subject under the lens is the touchy issue of booze. A lady driver was apprehended by the police on suspicion of having had one too many to drink. The mandatory test proved that the legal limit had been breached. She was duly charged.

The unhappy female was not finished. She sued the cops. Why? She claimed that the test was carried out without her permission. According to her, this was a violation of her rights, human, fundamental and whatever else her lawyer could think of.

We now move to the US. Not only is drinking legal, so is gambling. The former, within limits and the latter in licensed joints. Both are big business. Our subject first visits a booze parlour, and maybe other places, and drinks like a fish. Totally inebriated, he decides to try his luck with the ‘roll of the dice’ probably to recover his drinking expenses, or to enable him to buy some more.  

Luck may favour the brave, but not the drunk. Result: a full belly, a fuzzy brain and empty pockets. Halleluiah. The belly empties, the mind clears but the pockets remain barren. Enter a smart lawyer and some hard talk and what do you have? A lawsuit. It is against the gambling den. ‘Why?’, you may ask. Because, the plaint says, the management of the place should have prevented him from betting the shirt off his back, knowing he was completely drunk! They knew it. They did not stop him. They are at fault. Quad Erat Demonstradum.  As we go to press, the matter is still unresolved, judicially. The man had lost the equivalent of Rs30 lakh.

You be the judge.
The lady-in-distress, however, has had her day in court. Thankfully, her case was thrown out. She was asked, in no uncertain terms, to get lost. A drunk driver may have all sorts of rights, including the one to die. But that is not the crux of the problem. A drunk behind the wheel is a menace—a homicidal weapon. He may kill others. The police have every right to keep such unguided missiles tethered.

In the second case, our bet is that a similar judgement will ensue. All modern laws enunciate a doctrine that says that no man can take advantage of his own wrongs. It cannot be a defence. If one is fit enough to gamble, he is fit enough to pay for it.

The one question that now begs an answer is this. Would our sozzled friend have returned the cash if he had won?

Heads I win, Tails you lose!  
So, what should one do if arrested for ‘drunk driving’?

A) If innocent, ask for an independent test immediately. Police equipment can be, and often is, faulty.

B) If you have friends with you, make sure they attest to your sobriety.

C) Never, never make a scene, or bandy names. The cops hate people who say they are related to some big shot or the other.

D) TRY TO CALL YOUR LAWYER AS SOON AS YOU CAN.


BUT, if you have had your peg, shut up and pay up. AND THEN STAY DRY.

Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected] or [email protected]


 

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