A malevolent State – Some examples

Nothing I mention here is new. All these activities have been happening for millennia. The times have changed, but the practice of the murder of freedom continues. While laws were intended to protect people from each other and the government, it so happens that the power gets to the heads of those entrusted with the responsibility, and justice falls by the wayside. Hence, practically speaking, laws have always been about power and money, never about justice.

1. Jeffrey Tucker writes about the parasitical tendencies of law enforcement

It strikes you immediately when you are stopped by a policeman that there is a huge disparity of power at work here. You are effectively captured by them. You must comply no matter what. They have the legal right to use any method to keep you quiet and docile and to punish you to the point of death if you resist.

YouTube is filled with clips showing people being subjected to the latest weapon of choice: the taser gun. The police love the taser gun […] No bruises. No wounds. No broken bones. This is all the better for them — and all the worse for you.

Never forget what happens to you if you decide to run instead. That’s a death sentence. Forget that the instinct to evade your captors is universal and deeply embedded in our mental/biological equipment. The state operates on the assumption that you are its slave when it wants you to be, and otherwise free in name only. This is especially true in the age of Bush, in which all police at all levels have morphed into militarized “security personnel.” The friendly, helpful policeman of old civics texts seems to be a thing of the past.

2. A review of the book (pdf)Constitutional Chaos – by Andrew Napolitano, a former Superior Court judge, who writes about how the US Justice System has subverted the US Constitution-

During his own term as a state judge, Napolitano was on the lying end of police testimony. In one particularly egregious case, he recounts how two state police officers trying to pass themselves off as Mafiosi continually demanded “protection” money from a Sicilian immigrant who owned a small restaurant. After he continually rebuffed their advances, they threatened him with murder and told him that the next time they came to the restaurant, he had better have a gun for protection.

Soon afterwards, they showed up and demanded to see a gun. He pulled out a borrowed handgun, and was then arrested for illegally possessing the weapon. When the man appeared in court, Napolitano asked the officers if they had concocted the scheme on their own, or were they ordered to do so from supervisors. After the police refused to answer, he dropped the charges against the restaurant owner.

Indeed, Napolitano has almost no use for police entrapment schemes. He recalls walking through Washington Square in New York City following a Sunday mass and being accosted by undercover police officers wanting to sell him marijuana. After he refused, one of the officers flipped up his NYPD badge and said, “Have a good day, your honor.”

Calling the practice of entrapment a “perversion of the policing function,” Napolitano gives case after case in which innocent people are caught up in police stings and other attempts by the government to create crime where none was being committed in order to give the impression that police are protecting people. From bogus drug schemes to using cameras to photograph cars that run through red lights (after authorities have tinkered with the mechanism to give a short yellow light), governments are victimizing innocent people in order to fill up prisons and government coffers with fines.

3. Retrospective amendments to any law is immoral to the point of being criminal. But when such an amendment is used to target a particular person or company, what would you call it? That is what happened in 2005, in a case involving the Excise Department, the tobacco major ITC and an excise “demand”.

Between 1983 and 1987 excise on cigarettes was charged on the basis of the printed price. But some retailers who sold single sticks, in loose basically, charged more than that. The government saw some malicious intent in the whole deal and raided the offices of ITC. It then demanded that ITC cough up “unpaid” excise based on the final selling price (In 1987, the relevant laws were amended and the tax was charged based on the cigarette’s length). The case went to court, and seventeen years later, in 2004, the Supreme Court held in ITC’s favor

It has stated that the maximum retail price should be the benchmark for calculating the duty. If the retailer or wholesaler demands a higher price, and the consumer is willing to pay it, the manufacturer should not be penalised.

The Standards of Weights and Measures Act and the Packaged Commodity Rules impose a duty on the manufacturer to print the MRP on the packages.

Levying tax according to the printed price would be the proper procedure. The revenue department would not be advised to go behind it and presume illegality on the part of the dealers.

The court felt that it would not be practical to print a single “reasonable”, retail price of a brand for the whole country. It would require an excise officer in one part of the country to determine the reasonable market price throughout the country.

The court reiterated that words in a notification should be construed strictly according to their ordinary and natural meaning, particularly in economic legislations.

By this time, the demand amount had reached Rs. 803 crores, and ITC had deposited Rs. 350 crores with the government, pending judgment, when it had appealed to CEGAT (the Customs Excise and Gold [Control] Apellate Tribunal), and then in the Supreme Court. Since the judgment was “against the revenue”, the FM Chidambaram should have returned the money to the company. But, instead, he went ahead and issued an ordinance – the Central Excise Laws Ordinance 2005, and “amended the definition of ‘sale price’ to mean, in effect, the higher of MRP or maximum selling actual price.” Further, under Section 5 of the ordinance “the court’s power to subject this section to a judicial review has been excluded.”[Source: The bitter truth about the ITC notification]

The Supreme Court judgment was made irrelevant. Now, instead of receiving money from the government, ITC was looking at a scenario where it had to shell out Rs. 450 crores more within a month, or pay interest at the rate of 15 p.a. While over the years, the Supreme Court has allowed the wholesale slaughter of the original constitution without regard to any rights – to life, property etc – thankfully, it has preserved the right to a judicial review. So regardless of what any law may state, no law is beyond challenge.

ITC did not challenge the ordinance however, and made a settlement with the government, which agreed to it. Under the settlement the government would keep the Rs. 350 crores already with it while ITC would not have to pay the Rs. 450 crores that had been demanded-

Tax experts and industry observers view the patch-up between the two sides as a Government effort aimed at avoiding any confrontation with the judiciary in the Rs 803-crore alleged excise evasion case.

A very interesting case indeed. If a private party had indulged in such activities, he would be guilty of highway robbery.

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