Martin Luther to matsanyaya

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By Justice Dipankar Dutta of Calcutta High Court quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., the American civil rights movement leader, while delivering the order on Monday
  • Published 29.07.14

King’s immortal lines were part of The Letter from a Birmingham Jail, an open letter he wrote on April 16, 1963, after he was imprisoned for violating an injunction against picketing. A newspaper that was smuggled into the cell carried a statement by eight white clergymen against King’s methods. Provoked, King began to write a response on the newspaper itself. King later wrote in the book,Why We Can’t Wait: “Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly black trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me.”

The relevant paragraph in the nearly 7,000-word letter reads: “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea….”

Excerpts from Justice Dutta’s order (not in sequence)

The speech delivered by Mr Paul is outrageous and surpasses all bounds of civility, and it is indeed unfortunate that the matter has travelled to this court.

For the greater interest of the State in general and the people in particular, the civil administration ought to have been well-advised to take action in accordance with law to avoid litigation. The need to be so vocal would not have arisen, but for the irresponsible stand taken by the State…


I wonder whether it is due to lack of fundamental knowledge of the criminal laws or a calculated move to save a member of Parliament from being prosecuted that the complaint was not registered as an FIR


There cannot be any two opinions that the police, by not registering an FIR on receipt of the petitioner’s complaint and then again by not notifying the petitioner that the complaint would not be investigated, exhibited gross dereliction of duty


What is most painful and distressing is the clapping by the followers of Mr Paul present at the venue of the speech, upon hearing their leader boast of what he is capable of and his use of expletives for exterminating his opponents


Mr Paul before joining politics acted in several Bengali films as a ‘hero’. Gradually, he has made his way into politics and has been elected to the Lok Sabha twice. As an actor-cum-politician, he is an idol to many…. When a person of such a stature ventures to exhort his followers to indulge in killing of men and rape of women and to devastate their lineage should anyone from the opposition attack such followers, and despite being informed of a cognisable offence having been committed, the police remains unmoved, it would amount to a gross miscarriage of justice and an abject failure of the judicial process if the writ court were to fold its hands on the specious ground that an alternative remedy is available and the petitioner ought to knock the doors of the relevant magistrate for getting a complaint of this nature registered as an FIR


Mr Paul by his bizarre act has shown an evil tendency to become law unto himself. If this tendency is not nipped in the bud, the situation would take a turn for the worse for the State. It would breed contempt for the rule of law and encourage followers of politicians like Mr Paul to take law in their own hands. If a law-maker becomes a law-breaker and the law enforcing agency despite being informed turns a blind eye to it, can a civilised nation tolerate it?


Much of these crimes (in this country) go unpunished because of political patronage. Violence and crime constitute a threat to an established order and are a revolt against civilised society. Those entrusted with maintenance of law and order care less. Abiding by political diktats is considered much more important than the duty they are supposed to perform. Where is the country heading at?

The Supreme Court… has answered that behind the growing lawlessness it could see the looming danger of matsanyaya (in the absence of the king wielding the rod of punishment, the strong devour the weak like big fish eat the smaller fish).