“It’s a crime to steal,” I have been brought up with this notion as I am a kleptomaniac, a person who suffers from an irrational urge to steal in the absence of any economic motive whatsoever. In my childhood days I was forgiven for all such acts of stealing and even sympathised for my condition. My parents always tried to hide this fact from my relatives and friends as they thought it was better to bury the past and provide me with a clean slate.
I graduated from a Law college last year and joined the civil court. Earlier this month, I came across an assignment where the convict was a young boy of 18 years of age. He was charged with crime of stealing a few oranges and selling them for profit. As was caught red handed, it was an open and shut case.
But after going through his file I felt an itch. I felt as if something is not right and I took it upon myself to visit the plantation . My aim was to find out if it was just a one-time incident. As I was strolling in the fields I plucked one orange and started to eat it. A few workers saw me but none said a word to the guards. I didn’t intend to pluck it at first but it just happened. This was the itch I have been feeling, what if the boy was a kleptomaniac just like I am.
After talking to a few workers there I found out that the boy used to steal 2 to 3 oranges on daily basis. One day when he tried to smuggle 5 oranges, 1 orange fell from a hole in his t shirt in front of the guards. First he was beaten up for this and then handed over to police for a second round of beating.
On the day of trail his mother came in office and told about her family condition. She said her boy stole oranges only to barter them with new clothes. I tried to understand her pain and console her for what was about to come. Even on my way to court room she kept on explaining her situation and emphasised on how a conviction at this age can ruin the boy’s career. In the end she said that she is proud of her son and don’t think he has committed any crime.
Everything went as per the book and the boy was sentenced with a fine or six months of jail. I tried to rationalize this incident many times but failed to help myself from comparing the boy with myself. If everyone is equal in eyes of Law is equal, then why am I free??? Is kleptomania a disease of rich people only??? Shouldn’t we forgive this Orange thief and term this incident as a kleptomaniacal misconduct???
Also published at my blog : http://simplyraghav.wordpress.com/