STRAW MAN FALLACY, INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY
STRAW MAN FALLACY, INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY AND SOPHISTRY IN COURTS AND DEBATES
Often, we see the misleading arguments by Senior Counsels and also read the judgements passed by the so called Hon’ble Judges where the main cause is bypassed and undeserving person were benefitted by such intellectual dishonesty. However when such Judges like Justice Shukla, Nirmal Yadav , Shameet Mukharjee etc are arrested , prosecuted and charge sheeted by the CBI then we can make out the actual reason in passing such orders.
This article will help you to find out the intellectual dishonesty of Judges, Advocates and opponents.
The definition of SOPHISTRY is “ the use of clever but false arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.”
‘Intellectually dishonest’ people are those who are used to imposing their beliefs on others, make the facts suit their opinion, avoid taking new information or opinions of others as they are closed-minded and glued to reaching their intended conclusions. They often use invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning in the construction of arguments in order to prove their point which is far from the main point of question.
Such act of intellectually dishonest people can be described as a ‘Fallacy’. Such fallacies are committed intentionally to manipulate or persuade by deception. However, there are times, where fallacies may be committed unintentionally due to carelessness or ignorance.
The practice of using clever arguments which sound convincing but are false in actuality with a deliberate intent to trick and make his point is called ‘Sophistry’. A person is called Sophist when he reasons with clever but fallacious and deceptive arguments.
When there is an impression of refuting an argument and the proper idea of argument under discussion was not addressed at all or properly refuted, then such argument can be called as an informal fallacy, also known as ‘Straw Man Fallacy’. The one engaging in such kind of fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man”.
The typical straw man argument creates an illusion of having completely refuted the proposition of the opponent by covert replacement of it with an entirely different proposition (i.e. raise a straw man), then subsequently refute the said false argument (knock down the straw man); leaving the main proposition of the opponent aside and untouched. Such usage of straw man arguments dates long back in history majorly in courts, debates, politics, media, more particularly regarding highly emotional subjects.
The Fallacies of Relevance is generally represented by ‘missing of the point’ wherein the argument is presented, which sounds as such addressing the issue, but in fact, it fails to address the issue in question. They are used majorly by the advocates, speaker or writer, intentionally, in academic debate, a conversation among friends, political discourse, advertising, or for comic purposes. The arguer may use fallacious reasoning to try to persuade the listener or reader, by means other than offering relevant evidence.
PRESENCE OF FALLACY CAN BE OBSERVED WHEN –
1. They ignore or avoid the question by diverting the argument to unrelated issues;
2. Quote opponent's words - out of context i.e. they misrepresent the opponent's intentions;
3. Identify a false cause and effect;
4. Give vague answers and cause deceptive notions;
5. Have double standards;
6. Make jumps in logic;
7. Asserting that everyone agrees;
8. Create a false dilemma, in which the situation is either oversimplified or grossly exaggerated;
9. Selectively using facts i.e. using only those portion which is beneficial to them;
10. Making false or misleading comparisons;
11. Assume the conclusion of an argument, a kind of circular reasoning;
12. They do not value and are not open to others opinions and dismiss it without proper or logical reasoning.
The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:
In JNU Sedition case, the Police registered a case of sedition against Umar Khalid and others for slogans against Indian Army and in support of Pakistan Army. The intellectually dishonest people such as Adv. Fali Nariman, Justice (Retired) Deepak Gupta connected this issue with Right to Protest, attack on Freedom of Speech, etc.
The main issue regarding the serious offence of supporting Pakistan Army was not commented nor allowed to be debated by such anti national elements.
Later it came to light that the Pakistani agencies are funding such people to give statement in favour of anti-national elements. The interview of former RAW Officer viz. N K Sood is available on YouTube.
Deepika Padukone got Rs 5 crore to
participate in anti-CAA protest at JNU, claims former RAW officer According to
RAW Officer N K Sood, Deepika Padukone reportedly took Rs. 5 crores from a
person with Pakistani ties to attend an anti-CAA protest
Once an elected President was asked by the journalist, whether he used campaign funds for his personal use at the time of campaigning. He used the straw man tactic and spoke about a dog, the gift, that he received from one of his supporters. He elaborated and described more about the dog and how his daughter loved it and would keep it with her all the time and the love of kids for dog and that regardless of what others say, they are going to keep it.
This in fact, was a straw man response, where he was successful at distracting people from the question of funds and its misappropriation and focused on the small dog that his family and daughter loved. This way his critics too never criticized the dog as a gift nor did they suggest that they return it.
STRAW MAN FALLACIES COMMITTED BY THE INDIAN JUDICIARY:
Apart from the general incidents of debates, advertisements, media, there have been couple of instances where the Indian Judiciary, too, have committed such straw man fallacies and have adopted recourse of intellectual dishonesty while passing the judgements.
One such instance can be seen in the case of Vaidya Kuldip Raj Kohil v/s. State of Maharashtra & Anr. 2002. In the said case, the Respondent No. 2 had challenged the appointment of the Petitioner and alleged that he did not possess the required qualification. He challenged the same before the concerned Tribunals and High Court which were dismissed summarily. Even though such certification was for the M. P. S. C. to decide, the Respondent No. 2 took recourse to Criminal Court and the Ld. Magistrate issued process that too by diverting and ignoring to give reason behind differing from the said Police Report, which disclosed that there was no offence or forgery or cheating committed.
The Bombay High Court observed that –
8. ……… Thereafter to cause harassment to the Petitioners recourse was taken to Criminal Court. The Court lend necessary assistance to the Complainant to abuse the process of law by passing a vague order consciously. …… The learned Magistrate has passed an order running in seven pages which does not speak of a single sentence as to how and what offence is committed. I am convinced that the learned Magistrate also found that no offence is disclosed, even thereafter going out of way he wanted to help the complainant. The process of law was misused not only by the complainant but also by the learned Magistrate. It is a clear case of misuse of judicial powers by the Court.
As the entire order of learned Magistrate does not even remotely indicate how he came to the conclusion that offence is disclosed, and that he did not focus on the fact in question but stated that the matter can be decided only after a trial. This is a sheer example of the Magistrate of being intellectually dishonest and use the path of Straw man fallacy, whereby he avoided the issue in question and passed orders by misusing his judicial powers.
The said order passed by the Magistrate suffers not only from non-application of mind but also shows clearly that it is passed for some extraneous considerations. In the circumstances, the Bombay High Court rectified such fallacy by allowing the petition and quashing and setting aside the Order passed by the Magistrate, and also saddled the said Respondent with costs and directed him to pay Rs. 10,000/- to the Petitioner for filing a false and frivolous case in order to take revenge causing mental agony and torture to the petitioner.
Another instance of such straw man fallacy can be observed in the recent case of Arnab Goswami v/s. State of Maharashtra & Ors. 2020. Herein, a Petition before the Hon’ble Bombay High Court was instituted under Article 226 of the Constitution and Sec. 482 of Cr.P.C. While dealing with the petition u/s. 482 for quashing of the FIR, the High Court did not consider whether prima facie the ingredients of the offence have been made out in the FIR. Instead, it avoided to look into the contentions of the FIR and mentioned that the said submission deserves no consideration at this stage when the investigation is in progress and the alleged suicide note recovered by the Investigating Officer mentions the name of the petitioner. Thereby it held that no case is made out for release of the applicant under extra-ordinary writ jurisdiction and thus rejected the said Interim Application.
This is yet another classic example of Straw man Fallacy, where the Court avoided to look into the main proposition of evaluating the contentions of the FIR but jumped to a general conclusion that the High Court needs to use its arbitrary power sparingly and that in order to seek bail, the Court cannot exercise its arbitrary power and that the applicant is available with an alternate remedy for the same.
The Apex Court, however, formed the opinion that, the Courts cannot abandon its citizens who is able to establish prima facie that the instrumentality of the State is being weaponized for using the force of criminal law, and rectified the error committed by the High Court by observed that –
The High Court not only abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty but also failed to discharge its adjudicatory function of evaluating the FIR, prima facie, at the interim stage in petition for quashing the FIR and of declining the interim bail. If the High Court were to have carried out this exercise, it would have been apparent that the ingredients of the offence of abetment of suicide under section 306 of IPC have not prima facie been established and that it could have been cognizant of the specific ground that was raised by the appellant that he was being made a target as a part of a series of occurrences taking place since April 2020.
The Apex Court, thus held that –
The High Court did have the power to protect the citizen by an interim order in a petition invoking Article 226. Where the High Court has failed to do so, this Court would be abdicating its role and functions as a constitutional court if it refuses to interfere, despite the parameters for such interference being met.
9. We are of the considered view that the High Court was in error in rejecting the applications for the grant of interim bail. We accordingly order and direct that Arnab Manoranjan Goswami, Feroz Mohammad Shaikh and Neetish Sarda shall be released on interim bail, subject to each of them executing a personal bond in the amount of Rs 50,000 to be executed before the Jail Superintendent. They are, however, directed to cooperate in the investigation and shall not make any attempt to interfere with the ongoing investigation or with the witnesses.
In the case of Nidhi Kaim & Anr. v/s. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. (2017), the MBBS students had challenged the order of cancellation of their admission in the said course. It had come to the notice during the trial that the admission was not only based on errors and tampering of the examination process but also that they took recourse to even use help and assistance in giving exams and securing their admission in the college. The question in the present case is whether the said students should be allowed to retain their knowledge and not cancel their admission as well as their degree, considering the benefit of society at large. To support the contention and save the appellants their degree, Adv. Fali Nariman pleaded by suggesting that, the Supreme Court must be trusted and that it can even ignore statutory law, in the overriding interest of doing justice under Article 142 of the Constitution.
The Chief Justice J. S. Khehar, on the suggestion of Adv. Nariman, emphasised –
The argument advanced by Mr. Nariman, that this Court can pass order against statute is indeed heartening and reassuring. But if such preposition is accepted then, Mr. Nariman, and a number of other outstanding legal practitioners like him, undeniably have the brilliance to mould the best of minds. And thereby, to persuade a Court, to accept their sense of reasoning, so as to override statutory law and/or a declared pronouncement of law. It is this, which every Court, should consciously keep out of its reach. At the cost of repetition, we would reiterate, that such a situation, as is contemplated by Mr. Nariman, does not seem to be possible.”
The Full Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled that –
The Supreme Court cannot pass any order in disregard to statutory provisions and against the law laid down by Higher Benches of the Supreme Court. The proposition that it can do justice as it perceives, even when contrary to the statute, should never be entertained, as a rule, by any Court/Judge, however high or noble.
Hence, the Court cannot accept the claim of a person, who already has committed an offence and then sought remedy under Article 142 of the Constitution, under the pretext and suggestion of societal gains. Truthful conduct, must always remain the hallmark of the rule of law. No matter the gains, or the losses. The jurisdiction exercisable by this Court under Article 142, cannot ever be invoked, to salvage, and legitimize acts of fraudulent character. Fraud, cannot be allowed to thrive under the garb of public good. Therefore, in such position, there appears no possibility of extending of any benefit under Article 142 of the Constitution.
The Courts, across the spectrum – the District Judiciary, the High Courts and the Supreme Court – equally must ensure the proper enforcement of law and also make sure that it does not become a weapon for targeted harassment of citizens. It is the duty of the Court to safeguard the public interest and ensure that the due enforcement of criminal law is not obstructed and fair investigation of crime is an aid to it. Liberty is not a gift to selected people. It is important to note that, though such straw man fallacies are intentionally used in debates, advertisements and other areas, it should never become a part of the Judiciary or its decision making, as such Straw man Fallacy tactics will lead to breach of trust and will raise serious question of intellectual integrity of such authorities. National character cannot be sacrificed for benefits – individual or societal. If, we desire to build a nation, on the touchstone of ethics and character, and if our determined goal is to build a nation where only the rule of law prevails and that truthful conduct is the backbone for the success of administration of the law in the country.
Very well pointedReplyDelete