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Getting Away With Murder:ALL IT TAKES IS MONEY& POWER, by Poonam I Kaushish,25 February 2006 Print E-mail


NEW DELHI, 25 February 2006

Getting Away With Murder


By Poonam I Kaushish

Incredible India! A catch line that beckons the world to India. Offering splendour, loads of colour, vibrancy and a joy de verve the likes never seen before. Yet delve deeper and come face to face with the harsh reality. A murderer goes scot-free after killing a model at point blank range in cold blood in front of over 100 people at a tony Delhi restaurant. Her crime? She refused him a drink as the bar was closed. How dare she? Didn’t she know that he was the rich son of a neta, a Minister. What about the law? It is an ass. Only to protect the powerful and the rich. Bluntly, the killer had all that it took -----power and money. India is, indeed, incredible!

The Jessica Lal case judgment has brutally killed another signpost of our increasingly enfeebled Government machinery. Her murder was an open and shut case. The police had eyewitnesses who testified that Manu Sharma, son of former Union and now Haryana Minister, had shot her dead. But as the trial progressed and the accused were granted bail, the police case was virtually a litany of gaping holes. Replete with inconsistencies, slipshod follow-ups, disregard for details, witnesses turning hostile due to sheer incompetence.

Check this out. When the judge asked the investigating officer how he narrowed down on Manu. His answer: “My seniors told me Manu was the prime accused”. Leading the judge to surmise, “This is clear that the investigating officer had not collected any evidence to this affect, nor was a statement of any witness recorded regarding the involvement of Manu.” The net result? No one killed Jessica. Yet she died.

Why Jessica alone, remember the brutal Tandoor murder case which rocked political Delhi in 1996, where the prime accused, a local Congress leader Sushil Sharma burnt his friend Naina in a tandoor and got away. Or, the sensational Priyadarshini case where a 23-year-old girl was raped and murdered by the son of an Inspector General of Police. In that case too, the judge echoed the same words as in the Jessica case. “There was deliberate inaction by the police, suggesting that the rule of law is not meant for those who enforce law.”

Who can forget the infamous BMW car case where the grandson of a former Navy Chief mowed down seven people sleeping on the pavement of a road. Despite seizing the blood-stained car, the accused got away because the prosecution asserted that it was a case of mistaken identity. It was not the car but a truck that had run-over the poor victims!

What about the Nitish Katara case, where this young executive was allegedly killed by the son of a former Rajya Sabha MP. The reason? He was in love with the MP’s daughter. Or the Nagpur case, where a woman walked into a courtroom and killed a person accused of rape, apprehending that the police and the courts would let him off yet again.

What do all these cases tell us? They underscore the tragedy of India. People with deep pockets and high connections get away with cold-blooded murder. While thousands continue to languish in jails for years despite being acquitted. It would be too simplistic to apportion the blame on our present legal system alone. All agree that it sucks. Offering no recourse to the common people who are left to fend for themselves.

Worse, with the law becoming a mistress of the rich and a purchasable commodity available at a price, the Jessica Lal case judgment was a foregone conclusion. As confessed by the then Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) and now Commissioner K.K Paul. According to him, the fate of the case became clear when he discovered evidence tampering.

In his enquiry report to the then Police Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma, Paul revealed: “There has obviously been a conspiracy between the accused and certain officials which needed to be investigated.” However, this was not done because a committee of senior officers opined that the re-investigation of the case based on Paul’s report would tantamount to admitting that things had gone wrong, read police’s complicity. What has happened has happened, leave it at that, was the view of the police top brass.

What is worrying is that the judicial system as a whole is now being taken for granted. Sending out a clear message that the powerful can do whatever they want. Barbarianism is now the rhetoric of the day. Where anyone and everyone takes law into his own hands and get away with it. But this is not all. It is not uncommon to see law-makers and its enforcers indulging in criminal misdeeds. Be it rape or murder are men in vardi are pastmasters at it.

Follow the travails of infamous Mumbai cop, Daya Nayak, to know what I mean. Instead of serving the society, they serve their own interests. Over the years not only has the police become more and more powerful but also less and less accountable.  Many times, the checks and balances which are a pre-requisite of democracy have been dispensed with.  Turn to any mohalla, district or State the story is tragically the same.  Be it a minor offence or a major crime.  Brutality and beastility have become synonymous with the powerful and the rich.  A jungle raj. And we call ourselves a civilised society!

It is pointless to argue that the State has withered away.  Where was the “Iqbal” of the State? The shining authority that ensures respect for law and order across the country. How could this slaughter take place in the first instance? Who dared to openly take on the Administration? Sadly, the State today has become soft, flabby and impotent. Suffering from a debilitating incompetence, casualness and inefficiency – on all fronts.

Gone are the days of the British Raj when no one could so much as dare touch a policeman for fear that the entire might of the Empire would come crashing down on his head. A total of 20,000 to 30,000 British soldiers sternly ruled the country, thanks to what the Mughals called “the ruler’s Iqbal.” Today, the Government’s Iqbal is reduced to zilch. With the devil taking the hindmost!

India is today at the moral crossroads. More so, in our present all pervasive decadence interspersed with growing public distaste, cynicism and despair. If not stopped now it could result in a total breakdown of institutions, society, culture and ethical values. Which, in turn, could be the cause of a socio-political revolution.

Already, a SMS campaign is gathering mass among the Delhi University students. “There comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over…..Jessica is a perfect case study. Each one of us knows who killed Jessica, so why are we quiet? This could happen to anybody, tomorrow could be your turn…..Let’s help in proving the reality…Jai Hind.”

What needs to be done? For starters the methods of crime investigation have to be improved. Investigations need to be conducted in a scientific manner, a la Sherlock Holmes. Tampering with the prosecution should be taken seriously. There has been no investigation into the question that who caused the witnesses to turn hostile. If truth be told, getting a witness to turn hostile is now the preferred method of seeking acquittals for the rich and the powerful. Turning hostile means buying silence. Silence can be bought --- for a price or for fear of reprisals. Either way the mighty go scot-free.

Surely, it is time for judges to commence such investigations, before an acquittal can be pronounced. Recall, the former Chief Justice of India, Justice Khare had in a landmark judgment reopened the Best Bakery case because he found “the prosecution not sincere…rather it was behaving in a friendly manner with the accused. He also set norms for dealing with hostile witnesses.”

Fed up with Zahira Sheikh’s flip-flops, Justice Khare asserted: “If a witness turn hostile during trial proceedings, it is the duty of both the prosecution and the trial judge to cross-examine (him or her) to ascertain whether the witness turned hostile because of fear or any other ulterior consideration.” Clearly, the judge at the time of granting bail should be aware that this could give the accused the opportunity to access the witness.

Moreover, it is time we had a witness protection programme in the country. A Law Commission report on this continues to gather dust. Petitions filed in the Supreme Court over the Gujarat killings asking for witness protection programmes also languish in the corridors. Witnesses will and do turn hostile. But investigations must proceed independent of eyewitnesses to draw conclusions based on a chain of circumstances that led only to one conclusion. There is a lethargy over the questions, a dangerous lethargy which will cause people to settle their scores outside court.

In sum, it is time to face the moment of truth and reckoning. What is it that our people want at the end of the day? They wish to live peacefully and be assured that all men are equal in a true democracy. Governed by a common law of liberty and fraternity and assured of probity and morality in administration. Are they asking for too much? Or have we decided willy nilly to surrender shamelessly to horrendous criminalization ---- and say goodbye to the rule of law? Apradhikaran akhir kab tak? ----- INFA

(Copyright India News And Feature Alliance)










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