India Uncut

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Shoaib, Asif and the question of intent

My post from a few days ago, on Navjot Singh Sidhu's conviction, was poorly written. While trying to make the point that we should take the accused's stated intention with a pinch of salt, and that intent in a crime is hard to establish, I came across as downplaying the role of intent in dispensing justice. Ravikiran Rao corrected me instantly, and Gautam John, a lawyer by training, wrote in:
In cases of murder and culpable homicide, it's all about intent or mens rea. Mens rea (intent) + Actus Reus (act) give rise to the crime.
Fair enough, and I stand chastised. A better illustration of my broader point would perhaps be the recent reversal of the ban on Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif for doping. I can't think of a single instance of a sportsman caught for doping admitting to having cheated deliberately. They all claim innocence, and say that they inadvertently took the banned substances (Warnie blamed it on his mommie!), and did not intend to cheat.

In such cases, my contention is that the question of intent should be ignored, for we have nothing to go by but the word of the accused, who is bound to deny it. Once the action -- that the sportsman took banned substances -- is established beyond doubt, the punishment should be based on that alone. Otherwise efforts to ban doping are bound to fail.

Of course, the cynical might well argue that in the subcontinent, cricket is entertainment and not sport. Who cares, then, if Shoaib dopes or chucks? Bring on the drama.
amit varma, 9:34 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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