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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016
Shilpa Bhasin Mehra

Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion. This support may be strong or weak. The strongest type of evidence is that which provides direct proof of the truth of an assertion.

In sharp contrast, in our everyday life, we hear assertions like "I am telling you", these are simply statements made by another person, devoid of any evidence. In law, evidence is the most important factor in deciding any case. Even a child wants to know a reason for doing something, a proof that xyz will happen if he does a thing or doesn't. He doesn't just listen to his mother, when she says, "I am telling you". Reasoning and logic is the way the human brain works and understands everything. Dominance of opinion on others, just because the dominating person is older in age, or a superior at work or a religious head, is against the basic grain of logic and reason. It is like telling the person, just leave your brains aside and listen to what I am saying.

I have had the pleasure of listening to many eminent speakers at conferences. In spite of their vast knowledge and experience, the way they communicate actually speaks volumes of their intelligence, which includes giving the other people a chance to speak their mind, may be argue or disagree with something the speaker said and answering the doubts and addressing the issues raised by any member of the audience. That is the reason, that when I hear aggressive people speak in oppressing tones with the intent to quieten the other person, it beats my sense of logic and reason.

Richard Dawkins has so wisely said - "Religious fanatics want people to switch off their own minds, ignore the evidence, and blindly follow a holy book based upon private 'revelation'." And we know how dangerous that can be. We need to use our mind to figure out what is right and wrong for ourselves. Not just follow anyone or any philosophy blindly without any reasoning. The reason for the increase of terrorism in uneducated and poor people is that the terrorist organization can brainwash the illiterate youth to some ideology that favours terrorist violence. That is why the word "brainwash" is so apt, because it literally washes away the person's intelligence and replaces it with the beliefs of the dominating person.

Nowadays, with so much information available on the net and with children from a tender age learning how to operate computers, their brains are more tuned to reason. They can experiment with ideas, do research and find theories and evidence to support their beliefs. One doesn't have to believe what the teacher says. In fact, what is being encouraged a lot these days is OTB (Think out of the box). That's where your creativity and intelligence are challenged and new results and theories evolve.

The fundamental principles of law are rules such as "innocent, until proved guilty". It is all about proof. Furthermore, prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. A fair trial is one in which the rules of evidence are honoured, the accused has competent counsel, and the judge enforces the proper courtroom procedures - a trial in which every assumption can be challenged. Alan Dershowitz has said this so well - Juries are not computers. They are composed of human beings who evaluate evidence differently. A central tenet of justice is the idea that it is better to let a guilty person go free than to convict someone without evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

The whole basis of criminal jurisprudence is based on evidence. The reason why this permeates our lives is because of the logic and sense of reasoning it has. When a dog dirties the carpet with mud, there is ample evidence of the marks of his paws on the carpet. A mother knows that the child is hungry when he cries for food. His cry is the evidence of his hunger. A teacher knows that the student is not paying attention to his studies, because of the mistakes he is making and his poor grades in exams.

It is amazing how a principle that sounds so legal is present in our day-to-day life. A common question we ask all the time is, "how do you know". Basically what we want is some proof in order to believe the other person. Put across so wisely by Albert Einstein -"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

So next time think before crushing someone's curiosity and questions by the dominating "I am telling you". You cannot oppose reasoning to pride, the principal of all the vices, since, by its very nature, the proud man refuses to listen to it - warns Jules Verne.

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