The past month has seen a great deal of unin- formed comment on some of the issues that took centre stage in the national scene. The Apex court in a landmark judgement over- turned some of the more regressive provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the spotlight was once again on the Rafale deal, mostly for the wrong reasons, a veteran officer was arbitrarily put under arrest and the Service Chiefs continued to be at the receiving end of all that is perceived to be wrong in the Armed Forces.
Overturning some of the more regressive provisions of Section 377 was something that should have been welcomed as it set aside treating people with a different sexual orienta- tion as criminals. Section 377 itself is quaintly worded, the words “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” reflecting an era in which Victorian prudery was at its zenith. In any case, no one has really determined what exactly is the order of nature and why it has to be so sacrosanct. Such a law never ever exist- ed in the history of Indian jurisprudence till its introduction by the British in 1861.
Some of the comments in the social media were laughable, had they not been made by senior veterans. What, they asked, will now happen to the Army? Will the Armed Forces legalise homosexuality? The veterans and some in the serving fraternity too, seem to have forgotten the provisions of military law, specifically the all encompassing “An act prej- udicial to good order and military discipline.” But on a more rational note, all that the Apex Court has done is to remove the criminality element from a certain type of sexual orienta- tion. That does not give licence to people to deviate from accepted patterns of behaviour as a right.
The Rafale deal has also kicked up a storm, with most people commenting on an issue on which they have neither the facts nor the expertise to give any sort of opinion. The opinion of the Air Force brass is shrugged off as being in sync with the governments views. While views on what type of aircraft India should have can and must be debated, one thing is clear: The deal was free from corruption as it was a G to G deal. Let the matter rest there.
On a more sorry note, an army veteran was arbitrarily arrested on charges of violating the SC/ST Act, which were later found to be false. The case pertained to a dispute between two neighbours over illegal construction in one of the houses. That the SC/ST Act was falsely invoked by a civil servant against the Army veteran points to a blatant abuse of authority by those in power, which is a worrisome trend. It points to a decay in our system of dispensing justice which needs to be urgently addressed.
Finally, there seems to be no stopping some veterans from hurling abuse at the service chiefs. For most of these worthies, their personal contribution to the Service while donning the uniform was not much to write home about, but on getting the veteran tag, they suddenly seem to have grown a fresh pair of wings and heaps of knowledge about how the Army, the Navy and Air Force should be run! They had their time under the sun. It is best now for them to let the serving lot do the job they are mandated to do. Let us remember, that every time we disrespect our Chiefs, our own standing diminishes in the larger civil community.