In Bertolt Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, we come across a bizarre trial presided over by a drunken, corrupt, bribe taking, unorthodox judge called Azdac, who, however, to his credit, boldly departs from the path of traditional, logical law to deliver social justice. In real life, too, we have seen and heard of some weird judges with peculiar traits, absurd trials and atypical judgments, both here and abroad.
Yesterday, we published an interesting report on a judge’s obsession with computer card games. It said one of the five judges in the case of Anders Bhring Breivik, the killer of 77 people in Oslo on trial, had been caught on camera playing patience (solitaire) on his computer in court. The Norwegian media has given wide publicity to a picture of the judge, Ernst Henning Eielsen, engrossed in a card game while the case was being heard. (Incidentally, solitaire played in a variety of ways is said to have stood Napoleon in good stead during his exile.)
A Norwegian court spokesperson has sought to defend the indefensible. She has held a brief for the solitaire playing judge. Insisting that ‘judges are attentively following what is being said and what is being presented to the court’, she has said, “There are different ways of staying focused.”
Now, inveterate solitaire buffs do not have to worry about getting caught and taken to task for playing cards on their office computers. They could always tell their superiors that they are ‘staying focused’ on their work a la the Norwegian judge in trouble!
The Breivik trial is an extremely serious matter which has put the entire Norwegian legal system to test. It requires judicial officers’ undivided attention. One’s mind boggles at how a judge, while playing card games on a computer could concentrate on court proceedings aimed at deciding whether the mass killer who claims his visceral aversion to multiculturalism in extenuation of his gruesome crimes is sane or not. At a time an attempt is being made to probe Breivik’s weird, elusive mind, an egghead may consider the addiction of a judge hearing the case to solitaire some kind of learned behaviour representing a strong desire to avoid things that may make him anxious. Well, it is a matter best left to psychoanalysts et al.
Unfortunately, the solitaire issue has eclipsed what Breivik told court in his defence. He claimed he had been slighted by Muslims on several occasions during his childhood. He recalled that a Pakistani driver had slapped him and a Turk wrecked his bicycle. The veracity of his claims is yet to be ascertained but if he is telling the truth and such incidents have really had a lasting impact on him to the extent of driving him to resort to mindless violence in retaliation later in life, then the West which has been unleashing hell on Muslim countries where millions of children have not just felt slighted but borne the brunt of ferocious, indiscriminate attacks which have left hundreds of thousands people dead, has reason to worry about its future. For, those Muslim children may, as grown-ups one day, choose to avenge what has befallen them just as Breivik has done, and resort to violence to halt the western ‘invasion’ of the Muslim world?
Judge Eielsen’s preoccupation with playing solitaire while trials are on, in our book, is typical of the Norwegian nonchalance where mass killings are concerned. How the Norwegians handled the LTTE’s killings during a blatantly lopsided truce in Sri Lanka is a case in point. They became the self-appointed judge, jury and prosecutor––all rolled into one! They and other Scandinavian truce monitors never so much as lifted their eyes or pricked their ears up when the LTTE blasted civilian targets or abducted children or carried out high profile assassinations. They continued their ostrich-like posture, raising their heads from time to time to issue some duff reports; they were playing ball with the LTTE while terror victims’ patience was running out. Ironically, the Oslo mass killer has praised the LTTE!
It is time the Norwegian judges and politicians stopped being nonchalant in dealing with mass killers and other terrorists responsible for massacres which make Breivik look a kindergarten tot in the world of crime.