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Half an oath is better than no deed

The bride was radiant in white; the groom was in black. 

The courtship had been respectful and circumspect, yet passionate and enchanting.  The families had carefully estimated the socioeconomic standing of the prospective in-laws and declared themselves satisfied.  A pre-nuptial agreement had been successfully negotiated and the list of wedding gifts had been well subscribed.

The wedding ceremony was proceeding beautifully.  The responses had been given, the rings exchanged and the officiating priest had got to the point of saying ‘I now pronounce you …’

And stopped.

And started again with ‘You may now kiss the bride’. 

No one was the least bit bothered except awkward Aunt Edna who started agitating as per normal, saying that without the magic words ‘husband and wife’, the ceremony was incomplete and the happy couple were still, in the eyes of God and the congregation, single. 

The priest’s assistant claimed the opposite.  The priest had in fact said ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife’.  No problem, move along now, nothing to see here.

But Aunt Edna had it all on video and other witnesses confirmed that the pronouncement had indeed been truncated. 

Were the couple legally married?  Or living in sin?  Would any children be born illegitimate?  These, many claimed, were serious questions that needed answers.

It was suggested that a second ceremony could be held, not in full regalia perhaps, just to make the sure the required words were in fact spoken, but the priest was never at home when people came to ask.

The couple themselves did not seem upset by what happened and a few weeks after the honeymoon told everyone that the problem would be settled the next day.  Everyone turned up and was given a smartly printed copy of the homily that the priest had given at the ceremony.

No one thought that this solved anything, but the couple said that they were happy to receive the ‘moral support’.

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The reading of the verdict, running to many tens of pages, had been long and arduous.  The judge’s voice had become a dreary monotone and the court – officials, lawyers and defendant all – had lapsed into semi-somnolence.

The denouement caught just about everyone napping.  The droning narrative stopped and the chief judge announced: ‘You are found guilty as charged and are hereby sentenced.  Take him down.’

The court officers swiftly removed the accused, the clerk shouted ‘All rise’, and the judges disappeared into their chambers.  The defence lawyers quickly huddled together.  Sentenced to what?  Had anyone heard? 

One lawyer rushed to the court offices.  What was the sentence?  Sorry, we can’t reveal that information until we receive the judges’ report.  Come back in a month or so. 

Quickly over to the Office of the Judiciary.  A defendant has been found guilty but the judge forgot to say what the sentence was, said the defence lawyer. 

‘Forgot?  Impossible.  Any implications along those lines and we’ll have you for contempt of court.’

The defendant, now a convict, was sent to prison to serve – how long?  The family raised a hue and cry in the media. 

Meanwhile the defence team urged a speedy publication of the trial report.  The court assured everyone that there was no need to repeat the reading of the verdict and all questions would be settled in a few days.

The trial report came out and read: ‘The defendant was found guilty as charged and was hereby sentenced.’  The judiciary declared that they felt totally vindicated by the document.

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The Cabinet in their white uniforms formed rows …

Long-suffering Prachatai English Editor: Oh come on.  Messing up a wedding ceremony and a court sentencing are already pretty far-fetched, but messing up a constitutional oath?  No way. Could never happen.