Best columns: International
When judges abuse their discretion
Oscar Pistorius’ increased prison sentence is a rebuke to an overly lenient judge, said Rebecca Davis. The double-amputee Olympic sprinter was judged guilty of culpable homicide in 2014 and sentenced to just five years in prison after he fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, through a locked bathroom door. He claimed he mistook her for an intruder; prosecutors said Pistorius killed her in a jealous rage. After an outcry, the Supreme Court of Appeal changed the verdict to murder, and the original trial judge, Thokozile Masipa, grudgingly added a year to the sentence. Prosecutors appealed again, calling the term “shockingly lenient.” The Supreme Court has now imposed the mandatory minimum sentence for murder, 15 years. Masipa had cited mitigating circumstances for her decision to reduce the minimum prison term, including Pistorius’ belief that there was an intruder in his house and “his sense of vulnerability due to his disability.” But she seemed to display “inappropriate sympathy” toward the accused, calling him a “fallen hero.” To most South Africans, the light sentence for murder wasn’t justice; it was the typical leniency shown to a “rich white celebrity.” Masipa’s “second smackdown” should teach judges to adhere to sentencing guidelines. Justice means that all South Africans—black, white, and colored—should get the same punishment for the same crime.
Don’t bow to radical Hindus
Bollywood has a choice to make: Will it cave to the threats of extremists or stand up for free expression? said Karishma Upadhyay. So far, it’s leaning dangerously toward capitulation. Hindu nationalists from the Rajput caste have been protesting for months against the upcoming film Padmavati, about the life of a possibly fictional 14th-century Rajput queen. Rumors—denied by the filmmakers—that the film would show Padmavati in a love scene with a Muslim invader prompted furious Rajputs to assault director Sanjay Leela Bhansali during filming and burn down one of the sets. Now that the film’s trailer is out, and shows actress Deepika Padukone as Padmavati dancing with no veil and a bared midriff, a Rajput leader has called for Deepika’s nose to be cut off. Worse, a politician from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has offered a bounty of $1.5 million to anyone who beheads the director or stars. While the BJP denounced these terrorist threats, “there have been no legal repercussions.” No arrests have been made, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn’t mentioned the controversy at all. Instead, the film’s distributor, cowed by the “bullying,” has delayed the movie’s release. Self-censorship is still censorship. Will Bollywood really let Hindu nationalists dictate what can be shown? ■