Tardy response

An official of the French Consulate in Bangalore, alleged to have been raping his three-and-a-half- year-old daughter, has been arrested at last. There has been considerable public outrage in recent days over the horrific sexual violence as well as the slow pace at which the police responded. The matter came into the open on Thursday morning when the accused, Pascal Mazurier’s wife reported it to the police. Why did it take the police almost five days to arrest him? Top cops blamed the delay on their having to confirm his diplomatic status. They had to find out whether he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. While their caution is understandable, the inordinate delay is inexcusable. After all, how long does it take to confirm whether or not an embassy or consulate official has diplomatic immunity? The sluggish response of the  police as well as that of officials in the ministry of home affairs and the French embassy reveals the deep insensitivity to individual suffering that defines bureaucracies the world over.

Public impatience with the police is not without a reason. When it comes to nabbing those who are rich and powerful the police routinely drag their feet, resulting in the perception that they facilitate the accused to slip away. This is especially the case when western citizens have broken the law. Their governments quickly intervene, flex their muscles, engage in some bullying and whisk the accused out of the country. The manner in which the US embassy facilitated the departure of Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson from India in the wake of the Bhopal gas disaster and helped him elude the Indian courts thereafter is a case in point. The strong-arm tactics of the Italian government to get India to free its sailors who were in custody on charges of killing Indian fishermen provides yet another example of how western governments stand in the way of their nationals being tried for their crimes outside their country. Thus the public fear that Mazurier would be whisked out of the country is not without a history.

The French government should avoid asking for special treatment for Mazurier or call for his handing over to French authorities for trial at home. The crime Mazurier is accused of is a serious one. He must face the law of this country.  

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