V Pattabhi Ram and A V Vedpuriswar.
Wafers, the CA trainee, was exasperated. She had picked up the Companies Act to check the applicability of Sec 314. And she was stumped to find that if A was related to B, B need not be related to A. It took her breath away. If A was married to B’s sister, under the blessed Companies Act while A was related to B, B wasn’t related to A. To Wafers it didn’t make sense. But it was the law. Hadn’t her professor once famously remarked, “The law may be an ass but it is still the law.” She told herself that once she qualifies as a CA she would have nothing to do with law.
That evening Wafers poured her sorrows to her IIT pal China. But China being China, wouldn’t lend her his shoulders. Instead he rubbed salt on Wafers’ wound by pointing out to her the sheer size of the Companies Act and of the Income Tax Act. More than 600 sections in the first case and 300 plus in the second without counting the IAs, the IIAs, the IOs and the IIOs. “These Acts are meant to torture rather than help the citizens of India” he acidly remarked. Mentally she agreed with him but she couldn’t formally have the heart to accept it. After all, he was taking a potshot at her profession. So she pulled out the story her professor had once narrated explaining why tax laws in India were top heavy.
It seemed that when the Motor Vehicles Act was first promulgated it had only one section in it. It said, “every cyclist must carry a light with him.” A policeman once caught a cyclist riding without a light. “Where is the light,” he asked. “Sir, its inside my pocket” said the cyclist showing a torchlight. “But shouldn’t it be affixed to the cycle” asked the cop. “Sir, the law does not say so,” remarked the cyclist nonplussed. And so the law was amended to bring in Section 2. “Every cyclist must carry a light and the light should be affixed to the cycle.” The policeman caught the cyclist a second time. This time the light was affixed to the cycle. “Why is it not burning,” he asked. “Sir, the law does not say so,” said the cyclist tongue firmly in cheek. Enter Section 3. “Every cyclist must carry a light. The light must be affixed to the cycle. The light should burn. The policeman caught the cyclist riding without a light. “Where is the light?” he asked. “Sir, it is in the rear of my cycle,” he said. “But what is its use there? Shouldn’t it be affixed to the front of the cycle?” asked the police. “Sir, the law does not say so,” sang the cyclist. And so came Section 4. ……
“Well, it makes for a nice story but it is clear that India is an over legislated and under governed country”, said China. Rinku, the journalist whipped up another vintage stuff from the Companies Act. Sec 2(13) defines a Director as “Director, includes any person occupying the position of a director by whatever name called”. Well, for sure, it didn’t tell much. Even Wafers smiled. Would it mean that a director can also be a person who is not occupying the position of a director by whatever name called, she wondered aloud!
“So you think our laws are convulted? So you come out with funny stories justifying it?” It was her medico friend Muscles, biting into another pasta, who was speaking. “If you want to know something about order and method, you should have been at the operation table the other day.” China asked, “Well what happened?” It was then that Muscles narrated his tale.
Five people had come to the hospital. A, B, C, F and S. A had married the elderly widow B who had a grown up daughter C. With that marriage C became A’s daughter. Or step daughter if you wanted to be specific. Now F, who was A’s father, came visiting them, fell in love with C and promptly married her. Because C married A’s father, she became A’s step mother. So was she a stepdaughter or a stepmother? And because C had married F, B (C’s mother) became F’s mother in law. Don’t forget that by marrying A, B was already F’s daughter in law. So was she a mother in law or a daughter in law? “Are you sufficiently confused,” asked Muscles? “Continue,” snapped Wafers.
Now A and B get a child called S. Since A is F’s son, S becomes F’s grandson. But because S is also C’s brother and C has married F, S is F’s brother in law. So is S a grandson or a brother in law? Now since S is C’s brother and C is A’s stepmother, C becomes A’s uncle. So is he A’s son or is he A’s uncle? Now because S is F’s grandson and B is F’s mother in law, S is B’s great grandson. So he is A’s grandson. Ofcourse we know that he is A’s son. Ha, ha Son or grandson. “Stop it………….” screamed Wafers. The story had beaten even the provisions of law hollow.
China stepped in with his worldly-wise wisdom. “You see, Wafers, life is like that; a complex web of relations. There is no black and white; there are only shades of gray. Your customer is your supplier. Your competitor is your partner. Your friend is your enemy. The one whom you love is the one who causes you the most pain. People don different roles almost simultaneously. You are both a teacher and a student. You are both a boss and a colleague”. Rinku added, “at the top in any office, there is space for only one person. So as you seek to climb up you tend to push people down. And yet you smile with them. That is 21st century India; wheels within wheels”. Arthur Hailey would have turned in his grave, thought Muscles. China closed out, “you should be able to hold two diametrically opposite views in the mind and yet retain sanity. If you cannot discern and work through this complex maze, Wafers, people will call you a nice lady or they would call Muscles a nice gentleman but neither of you will go far in life.
“Does that mean that the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line?” asked Wafers. “Yup. You have got a hang of it,” remarked China. Muscles couldn’t help smile. It was then that Wafers recalled Boka mention about his professor Chatshow. The mercurial professor had asked the class. “A buys into B, B buys into C, C buys into D and D buys into B. Who owns which?” Wafers’ nightmare came back to haunt her.