During the flight that I have mentioned in the previous post, I read a story by Anton Chekov, so intriguing that it really set me thinking about the perception of Justice that prevails in our society; it is called “The Head-Gardener’s Story “ The story starts with a gardener talking to people and saying that he feels good when someone is acquitted of a charge because this reinforces belief in humanity. He goes on to narrate a story. It is set in a small town and is about a doctor who lives there. He is utterly sincere and selfless in his work and so is admired and respected by the people of the town. Even when he was waylaid by vagrants, he suffered no harm because of his good deeds.
However, the doctor was murdered. I really love the way that the author describes the expression on the doctor’s face when he was found.
… and his pale face wore an expression of amazement. Yes, not horror but amazement was the emotion that had been fixed upon his face when he saw the murderer before him.
Not only this, the whole town is not angry but amazed at this dastardly deed. The judges quickly rule out murder as the cause of death and say that his death was, in all likelihood, an accident. They think that there could be no one who would want to kill such a good person. Incredibly,when they find a person, against him there is enough evidence to convict him of murder, the judges say that in all probability, there had been some mistake and that person could not have killed the doctor. Finally, they let the accused go free.
It completely flabbergasted me! Even when there was so much evidence against the accused, how could the judges let him go scot-free? Didn’t it go against the common perception that a criminal must be punished for his deeds, no matter what? The characters had such faith in humanity that they disagreed that anyone could be so vile, as to kill the doctor. Though this story was written before 1900s, the concept is even more relevant today. Many a times, when approach people, we do so cautiously. In essence, our faith in humanity has begun to waver. The above story reminded me that decisions need not always be mathematical but must be based on compassion too. More important than punishment for the sinner is for us to continue our belief in humanity and its existence.