Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
When the Remedy Hunts for a Malady

The court’s imagination sometimes makes the crime fit the punishment instead of the converse


Great cities are built on river banks. Delhi is on the Yamuna; Kolkata on the Hoogly; Varanasi on the Ganges. New York has its Hudson, Paris its Seine. But the one coupling that has the most romance must surely be London and the Thames.


Moneylife, the Thames and the law have met before. They meet again in a strange case where the appellate court denounces the subordinate judge with, “... a millstone should be hanged around his neck and he be cast into the uttermost depths of the sea.” Harsh words uttered a century ago; and then the proclaimer goes on to infinitely more bizarre decisions.
Hammersmith Bridge spans the Thames. A beautiful bridge, fitted together with bolts the size of an arm and a leg. Londoners like their heritage so much that it is maintained at any cost.
The Hammersmith Regatta is a boat race that passes under the bridge. In 1929, it attracted its fair share of the viewing public. One of them was a man who had a couple of beers but was not intoxicated. Next to him was Snooker, a gambler. He bet our man a pound to jump off the Bridge. He promptly acceded, took off his coat, dived into the River and, being a good swimmer, swam ashore. And that’s when the trouble started.
He was convicted of causing an obstruction, being drunk and disorderly, attempting to commit suicide, conducting the business of a street bookmaker, endangering the lives of mariners and interfering with an authorised regatta—the Brits take their sports seriously.
He appealed, asking which of these charges could stick. The answer: ‘apparently none’. Snooker was the witness. No money had changed hands. The man was stone-cold sober. None was hurt. The race was held on schedule.
You be the judge.
His appeal was, strangely, dismissed. The court then set about trying to fit the punishment to the crime, any crime, a la Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado, in reverse. The imagination of the court now worked overtime.
The winning side never keeps its mouth shut, in court. Our swimmer was also an orator and he said that England was ‘a free country’ and that what he did was ‘for fun’. This was the opening the judges were waiting for. They seized it. England was not a free country; it was ruled by acts of Parliament, the court thundered. The law prescribed what and where people should, eat, drink, walk, drive or sleep. “… And least of all, they do unusual actions for fun. People must not do things for fun. We are not here for fun. There is no reference to fun in any act of Parliament. If anything is said in this court that Englishmen are entitled to jump off bridges… For these reasons… this appeal must fail. It is not for me to say what offence the appellant has committed, but I am satisfied that he has committed some offence …” Phew!
More fascinating in this farce are the names of the major players. The chief justice was Light; from the dark ages or at least that is where his judgement must be consigned. Snooker, the wagerer. Judge Mudd, whose thinking was as clear as mud, claiming that the River water got polluted by the act. Adder J, added it up as an attempt to destroy Hammersmith Bridge. And the name of the millstone-able judge? Mumble, J.
Sadly, the records are silent on the name of our hero. Maybe, to deny him his rightful place in history.
Author’s note: The author often says that the law may be an ass, but not a donkey. Readers are allowed to disagree with him.


Finally, police arrest Rampal from his ashram

Police arrested Rampal from his ashram where four women died mysteriously and two others in hospital in the midst of a showdown. He would be produced before a Court in Hisar on Thursday afternoon


Self-styled ‘godman’ Rampal was arrested on Wednesday night from Satlok ashram, ending an over two-week tense standoff between his supporters and the police after as many as 15,000 followers were evacuated from the sprawling premises.


The controversial 63-year-old godman will produced in a Hisar court on Thursday, Superintendent of Police of Panipat Satish Balan said.


The police arrested Rampal from his ashram where four women died mysteriously and two others in hospital in the midst of a showdown.


On a day of high drama, Rampal stuck to his defiant stand of not surrendering despite repeated announcements by the police asking him to do so. The police said he had not surrendered but was arrested.


The Haryana Police slapped fresh cases, including the serious charge of sedition, against Rampal who will be produced in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday, the deadline set by the court.


Police said 70 supporters of the Rampal, most of them his “private commandos”, who indulged in violence yesterday, were arrested and produced before the local court, which sent them to judicial custody till December 3.


Those arrested, include Rampal’s son and chief volunteer Purushottam Dass, a cousin of the ‘godman’.


Unlike Tuesday, when the vicinity of the ashram in this town of Hisar district looked like a war-zone when police and Rampal’s supporters clashed, including small arm firing from inside, the situation was peaceful.


More than 10,000 followers, including aged men and women and children, who had been holed up inside the ashram for days, came out with raised hands, signalling peace. By late evening, a large posse of CRPF personnel were brought to the periphery of the ashram.


The Centre had also despatched 500 CRPF personnel to help the operations.


Earlier, the Centre appeared to be unhappy over the way the issue was being handled. Union Minister Rajnath Singh is understood to have told Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar to end the standoff quickly.


"The state government is proceeding carefully and cautiously to arrest Sant Rampal," Khattar said later.


While the clashes yesterday left over 200 injured, police today announced that bodies of four women were handed over to them by the ashram staff. Another woman and a one-and-a-half year old baby were taken in serious condition to a hospital where they died.


It was not clear what caused their death. State police chief S N Vashisht said there were no external injuries and only a post-mortem will reveal the real reason of death.


Moneylife Foundation's Open House with Our Three New Trustees

Mr TS Krishnamurthy, Dr KC Chakrabarty, Siddharth Das and Sanjay Nirupam took questions from an audience of Moneylifers on not just problems but possible solutions in an ever-evolving finance environment


Moneylife Foundation was proud today, to hold an open house with its three newest trustees. Former Chief Election Commissioner, TS Krishnamurthy, Former Deputy Governor Dr KC Chakrabarty and COO at Flipkart Payment Gateway, Siddharth Das, graciously agreed to talk to Moneylifers and have an open discussion on a range of issues.


Three time Member of Parliament, and Congress Party leader Mr Sanjay Nirupam also graciously agreed to be a part of the event and be a part of the conversation. Ms Sucheta Dalal began by briefly introducing the four panellists and turning over the proceedings to the house immediately.


As was expected, the initial barrage was focussed around the most recent events, with the RBIs moves on ATM charges. Dr KC Chakrabarty, always frank and unencumbered by political correctness, took on the questions head on. He explained his personal position and the position of regulators around the world.


“First thing is that we must define deposit. Globally regulation is activity wise, in India it is institution-wise. We have neither a definition of deposits and neither is jurisdiction activity-wise. Globally, 'deposit-taking' is the regulated activity." This is the root cause of the multiple regulators, and overlapping jurisdictions,” said KC Chakrabarty. "Charging somebody for withdrawing money is illegal and it does not happen anywhere,” He added.


Mr Sanjay Nirupam listened to both sides and as he had said at the outset, he had come to take back all the inputs he could, from both the regulator's side and the consumers. An audience member asked, "shouldn't there be a penalty if an ATM is not working?" Dr Chakrabarty's reply was that "This has to be put in the contract between the bank and the customer, there is not other way to legally deal with this."


Ms Dalal raised the issue of unregulated NBFCs and company deposits where even senior citizens lose huge sums of money. "I was party to a discussion in the Department of Company Affairs, where I said company deposits should be regulated only by RBIs, the DCA cannot regulate them because DCA does not perform audits,” he said.


Mr Krishnamurthy took on issues regarding taxation, laws in the Department of Company Affairs, where he was a senior bureaucrat, co-operative banks and NPAs. In the spirit of an open house, all questions were addressed by one or more panellists. On the wisespread issue with Cooperative Banks, Dr Chakrabarty said, "You will be shocked to know that majority of rural co-op banks are not even licensed. Co-ops are in a great mess for the past 100 years. My suggestion would be that for half percent or 1 percent interest more, don't put money in these banks."


Moving on to an issue of the future, Mr Yogesh Sapkale asked Siddharth Das what he felt about the payments systems in India, especially with regard to the IMPS and mobile money. Mr Das gave a detailed response on how the ecosystem works and the possible future routes to solving the problems faced today. "India has the best interbank payment system in the world, as with all fledgling systems there are teething problems, and with IMPS there are these problems because of the way the system is built, but these problems are improving,” he said, noting that there was good news too.


Following complaints by the audience that regulation was not keeping pace with the marketplace and the innovations all around the world, Dr Chakrabarty took the view that regulators are by nature the last to react. Taking the example of Bitcoin he explained that, "If we understand Bitcoin, we will allow it. Secondly, regulators are never smart, regulation is the next stage, if there is a demand, market will develop, and then the parliament will create a regulator. There is a thin line between innovation and violation, what the regulator calls violation, the market calls innovation."


On the issue of valuations of online businesses, Siddharth Das explained that with huge capital inflows, the companies are able to offer discounts to customers, so that they increase the size of the market. Following which, Mr Nirupam asked on what the solution for taxing online sales could be, "Businesses will always go to places where taxes are lower. Unless and until taxes are imposed at source, this problem will always exist. With a federal set-up where each state has its own laws, this will happen,” Mr TS Krishnamurthy said.


On the emotive issue of black money, Mr Krishnamurthy explained that, “On the issue of black money, atleast 50% of black money is already converted into white. There is a misconception that black money is lying abroad in accounts. The fact is that black money tends to get converted to white quite fast.”


The subject of Non Performing Assets and Corporate Debt Restructuring came up during the discussion. Audience members raised the point that the big fish were getting away and Mr Nagesh Kini and Ms Dalal said that as in the case of Lanco Infrastructure, the RBI had even failed to provide information on the Rs9000 crore deal that the lenders cut with Lanco. Dr Chakrabarty said that, “CDR is an accepted tool, you are saying it is misused in India, industry is saying it is used very well.” Mr Krishnamurthy went on to explain that, "There are two types of restructuring, Corporate Debt Restructuring and Corporate Restructuring. CDR is a deal between the lender and the borrower. Dr Chakrabarty is right that you cannot force RBI to give you information about this private deal.


Government can give you this information but not RBI."


In the course of the questions and answers, issues ranging from regulation, co-operative banks, defaults, NPAs, deposits, interest rates, lending practices, elections, election financing, black money, corruption, e-commerce, internet currencies, mobile payments and many other current issues were discussed. Mr Sanjay Nirupam ended the program with a suggestion that while it is true that Co-op banks are in a mess and they enjoy political patronage, there is no harm in the RBI making a little effort to connect wit the customers and be a little more customer friendly. Dr Chakrabarty answered that, he was in agreement with the suggestion but in practise this does not happen because the RBI's mandate has been to make sure the banks survive.


We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.

To continue

Sign Up or Sign In


To continue

Sign Up or Sign In



The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)