The self-anointed critics and law experts are angry. They are there to educate us all that a literary reference should be avoided in court verdict and that the verdict must be based only on the fact and law. These self-proclaimed legal minds are very keen to educate the commoners like us that a court verdict is all about application of law on the facts and any reference to literature can’t be and must not be appreciated.
As a student of law, we look into the history of court verdict to understand whether or not the facts corroborate this theory .
So here I am copying and reproducing a list of some of the famous cases where a reference has been made to piece of literature.
1. In Victor Ivan v. Sarath N. Silva, Attorney-General and another Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure” has been cited. Justice Mark Fernando has commented as follows“I do not think that a newspaper enjoys any greater privilege of speech, expression and publication, or immunity from prosecution, than the ordinary citizen. The freedom of the press is not a distinct fundamental right, but is part of the freedom of speech and expression, including publication, which Article 14 (1) (a) has entrenched for everyone alike. It surely does allow the pen of the journalist to be used as a mighty sword to rip open the facades which hide misconduct and corruption, but it is a two-edged weapon which he must wield with care not to wound the innocent while exposing the guilty. As Shakespeare put it:
“ O! it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, But it is tyrannous To use it like a giant.”(Measure for Measure, II, ii, 107)
2.In another famous case Parhat V. Gates in the United States Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge Sentelle has cited the poem “
The Hunting of theSnark ” by Lewis Carol, the author of popular children’s book Alice in Wonderland ,
3. In Stat vs Allon Voila the judge has refered to the famous novel Oliver Twist.
4. In Pistorius was convicted of murder last month, the presiding judge described the case as a “human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions”.
5. In 2012, Britain’s High Court evoked “King Lear” in a trial regarding a “menacing” joke on Twitter—they eventually overturned a conviction on the grounds that social-media users “are free to speak not what they ought to say, but what they feel”.
6. The condemnation of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, one of the orchestrators of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, was sealed with lines from “Julius Caesar”: “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
Referring to a piece of literature is not an alien idea. The self-anointed critics must know.