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How a Marathi folk story of a King and a mouse explains the whole charade of speaking truth to power in the context of Prashant Bhushan – contempt of court case.

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When a court under its full wisdom and authority delivers a judgement which is unpalatable to them guardian angels of all abstract moral principals (in this case “freedom of speech”) the courts are automatically slapped with the classical, ad hominem charges of showing a lack of magnanimity, abetting the death of FOS and independent judiciary etc.    

Later, when the court adopted a rather conciliatory route by granting the convict an opportunity of introspection and reconsideration, it is seen as desperate.  

As the court, by giving due regards to the advice it received from AG, virtually grants a pardon to the convict in spite of his adamance, it is seen not as an act of magnanimity but an act committed under the mounting public pressure and is portrayed as a humiliating defeat of the court and a victory of the convict and his supporters. Ironically on odd days, the very same lot will write long pieces and deliver sermons from their pulpits on how the judiciary is increasingly falling pray to the majoritarianism.      

One can’t help but not notice how the these commentators have refrained from bringing in the caste angle, it would certainly have been a point of contention had Bhushan belonged to some other dispensation. Surely, parallels would have been drawn between the treatment of Justice Karnan vis a vis Bhushan and the case would have been used as an example to make the argument of the upper caste – majoritarian structure of our judiciary. In some other context this would have been characterised as an fixed match.  

Lastly, at least the “Modern Mahatma” knew that things should not be stretched post a certain extent. After all complying with the order is ceding away to some degree, perhaps even the person in question knew that the principle itself was not so worthy as to face the grave consequences of not paying the fine.        

The whole incident reminds me of a famous marathi folk story of that of a King and a mouse. 

The story goes like this, one fine day the mouse found a nice piece of cloth. He takes that piece of cloth to a tailor and asks him to make him a hat. Naturally, the tailor found this whole thing rather absurd and unusual and hence refused and shooed him away, the mouse in return told him that he is invited to the royal court by the king himself and for that he needed that hat, the very mention of a royal court scares the tailor and he makes him a fine hat. Flaunting his new hat the mouse goes to the royal court, uninvited and starts running around the court creating a ruckus. The king antagonised by his behaviour asks the guards to arrest the mouse. 

Here comes the relevant part, when the mouse is produced before the king he alleges that the king got him arrested because he was jealous of the fact that my hat looked better than his crown. The king, rattled by this charge commands his guard to separate the hat from the mouse. The clever mouse then starts shouting in the middle of the court filled with audiences “ THE KING IS A BEGGAR, HE TOOK MY HAT AWAY – THE KING IS A BEGGER HE TOOK MY HAT AWAY”. Every time he shouted so, the king got even more embarrassed. To save himself further embarrassment he asked the guards to return him the hat. After the return, the mouse runs away shouting “THE KING GOT SCARED, HE RETURNED MY HAT, THE KING GOT SCARED HE RETURNED MY HAT. 

Its funny how an issue that is seemingly a bit cluttered and complex is explained by a simple story told to children. It is intact a testimony to the prowess of folk wisdom. Perhaps the judges too should have drawn some lessons from this story and acted accordingly. 

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