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Suggestio falsi, Suppressio veri: Two peas in a judicial pod

Published Feb 4, 2019, 1:25 am IST
Updated Feb 4, 2019, 1:25 am IST
That bit of legalistic mumbo jumbo was required for what is to follow.
Turns out the boot was on the other foot. Every allegation trotted out by this pseudo cyber expert was roundly denied by all the authorities concerned.
 Turns out the boot was on the other foot. Every allegation trotted out by this pseudo cyber expert was roundly denied by all the authorities concerned.

“It is a rule of equity, as well as of law, that a suppressio veri is equivalent to a suggestio falsi; and where either the suppression of the truth or the suggestion of what is false can be proved, in a fact material to the contract, the party injured may have relief against the contract.”

The statement above has been placed in quotes but I have chosen to leave it unattributed for the reason that this legal principle has been set in stone and enunciated in the annals of international jurisprudence. More than one case has resulted in the honourable judge literally laying down the law that it matters little whether a person is imputing a false suggestion or is downright hiding the truth. The law will not distinguish between the two misdemeanours when it comes to handing out the sentence. Provided guilt has been proved.

 

That bit of legalistic mumbo jumbo was required for what is to follow. It is not my intention to take the reader on a crash course on legal principles, a matter on which I am eminently unqualified. Law was an incidental subject in my university syllabus, but I only got as far as Carlill vs Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. in the English law of contract. Further, I daren’t risk legal eagles coming down on me like a ton of bricks for tort and malfeasance, or whatever it is that gets them incensed. I came across the phrase suggestio falsi, suppresio veri many years ago in an Erle Stanley Gardner novel, featuring the peerless Perry Mason. There was a stentorian ring to those words, as most phrases in Latin tend to have and it stayed with me over the years. Judges can be intimidating when they start spouting Latin.

In our country ‘fake news’ is the subject of choice for animated discussion in the conventional and social media. Take the recent Electronic Voting Machine ‘Hackathon’ held in London to expose the supposed EVM fraud that had allegedly taken place during the last general elections in 2014. With great fanfare an event was organised the primary aim of which was to blow the lid off the ‘scandal’ surrounding the alleged hacking of EVMs smoothly facilitating a convincing electoral victory for the ruling dispensation. The person paraded by the organisers as the star of the show, one Syed Shuja, touted as a ‘cyber expert’ residing in the United States, made a slew of accusations against the BJP.

Even the unsolved murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh and the reportedly accidental death of former BJP minister Gopinath Munde allegedly happened because they had knowledge of the alleged EVM rigging imbroglio! That has to be quite a stretch. This charlatan also claimed to have been on the inside track of India’s EVM functioning because he was supposedly employed by the Election Commission and was privy to its inner workings. This was promising to be big time stuff. The media was licking its chops in anticipation and even a prominent lawyer and leader of the Congress Party, Kapil Sibal attended the event in London, albeit in his personal capacity, as he was evidently a close friend of the organiser.

Turns out the boot was on the other foot. Every allegation trotted out by this pseudo cyber expert was roundly denied by all the authorities concerned. A tissue of falsehoods, leaving plenty of red faces covering both suggestio falsi and suppresio veri. Once the excrement hit the fan, Mr. Sibal explained away the situation adroitly by saying that he was all for getting to the root of this Shuja scandal, if indeed there was one, but that did not change the fact that the ruling party was up to no good with the EVM machines, which is what was needed to be probed thoroughly. Nice try Mr. Sibal, if a tad discursive.

Expectedly, BJP spokespersons and their friendly media channels were on the warpath and went on a counter offensive, questioning the motives of the Congress Party, pretty much accusing them of being the hidden hand behind the London presser fiasco. They were helped in no small measure by the Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora, who called a press meet of his own on the subject. He made it plain to the meanest intelligence that our EVMs are beyond criticism, having been tried and tested for over two decades, and are here to stay.

Notwithstanding minor glitches that can occur on such a massive operation as India’s elections, the CEC stressed that ‘we are not going back to that era where we have ballot papers being lifted and musclemen being employed.’ Booth capturing and harassment of polling staff is a thing of the past. Clearly, the CEC was
imputing suggestio falsi on the part of the EVM’s motivated critics, rubbing salt into the wound.

India, of course, is never short of some scandal or the other in high places. Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Vijay Mallya and now, the simmering ICICI Bank scandal boiled over last week when the much maligned CBI filed FIRs against the bank’s erstwhile MD Chanda Kochhar, her husband, and a prominent industrialist, along with other well-known personages crawling out of the woodwork. The hundreds of crores involved in terms of alleged favours granted by those in positions of power, have now become passé. Like so much water off a duck’s back. The ICICI brouhaha was a clear case of suppressio veri. The
general view of those taking these dubious decisions being that ‘as long as we keep our mouths shut’, all will be well. Well, they’ve got another think coming.

That just about sums it up. Whether it is deliberately holding back the truth, or slyly putting people off the scent with a red herring, the Indian diaspora never lacks for high drama. Though it sounds so much more impressive in Latin - suggestio falsi, suppressio veri!

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