Baffling if not irritating salman khan saga
May 6, 2015 is not going to be only red-letter day, when a development of poles apart seemed to have taken place, thanks to an extremely high voltage drama anchored rightly in public interest by the electronic media. The District & Sessions Judge of Greater Mumbai at last had courage to deliver a judgement which may have belied expectations not because it had ample evidence from both the sides but also due to his shocking decision to permit last minute deposition of Ashok Singh, the so-called family driver of the only accused, Salman Khan
2002 to 2015 is a very long period for the normal dispensation of justice.In India, same is heard and delivered by following an elaborate & outdated British system of jurisprudence as opposed to quick and flexible jury system of USA.
Perhaps three major Criminal Acts were also drafted very carefully, meticulously and certainly with a tinge of bias by the colonial masters vis-a-vis the offenders or in the instant case,the road-users or the pedestrians.While they continue to be the Central Acts enforced & extended even in the post-1947 period, many Central and State amendments have happened in view of developments or needs of time. However, they do not take place at regular intervals. Thus the apparent loopholes go on to help the opportunists, the moneyed and the mighty. The common man, in contrast, has to always run from the pillar to post not only for desiring justice but even for admitting a genuine grievance-based petition.
May 6, 2015 is not going to be only red-letter day, when a development of poles apart seemed to have taken place, thanks to an extremely high voltage drama anchored rightly in public interest by the electronic media. The District & Sessions Judge of Greater Mumbai at last had courage to deliver a judgement which may have belied expectations not because it had ample evidence from both the sides but also due to his shocking decision to permit last minute deposition of Ashok Singh, the so-called family driver of the only accused, Salman Khan. The conduct of both of them may lead to suspicion, as it was,if one may say so, a last minute device to salvage a â€œprecariousâ€ situation.Due to it, if a statement could be made in all humility, the judge attempted to make a mockery of the whole process when end seemed logical, if not fully conclusive.
At last judgement has been delivered, even if the quantum of punishment is barely 5 years for one murder and grievous life-long injuries to 4 others.In good old days, the date fixed/designated for judgement would normally see everything in one go, presumably to ward-off any underhand deals,unless in the opinion of the Presiding Officer pronouncements had to be staggered over to a few days, based on the circumstances or the complications involved.
In the instant case,for the reasons best known to the Judge,every process was rolled into just 4 hours. Even the so-called â€œSpeaking Orderâ€was pronounced much ahead of schedule, thereby giving ample time to defence to work on â€œmanipulativeâ€ processes, both within the Court as also within the precincts of the High Court. Mumbai Police too gave the impression of being Casual Referees. Even when the high profile person was convicted he was not only seen behaving like a Super-Star,he became a larger than life figure, all of a sudden. Thanks to reported laxity by police and the money power & over-all reach of the convict, the sparkling white and latest SUV of Mercdes Benz had free and easy access in all nooks and corners. Needless to say,an accused or a suspect having a common background would be deprived of such concessions and privileges. Rather, police would have a â€œfieldâ€day with him or her.
The terrible haste in deciding the quantum of punishment and of all the things,â€sudden breakdownâ€ of power between 12.50 and 13.25 hrs.may lead to genuine suspicion on the part of Court authoroties. One can not say for certain but there was implicit pressure applied on the District Judge to reduce the maximum period of 10 years to 5 years One should not also ignore the fact that while delivering such a crucial judgement of public ramifications,one does refer to similar cases decided in the past,when justice was supposedly given, leniently given or given with a reasonable compensation to all the victims.
The Judge in question very well knew the relevant Section 389 of Cr.P.C. that if conviction was to be for a period below 3 years and if the accused had moved for bail at the drop of hat,the judge was liable and duty bound to hear and dispose-off his plea then and there. He at the same time, could have also heard the same plea with more application of mind, the following day. Interestingly this did not happen due to award of 5 years conviction. The matter, therefore was conveniently passed on to the High Court, which, with due regards to the Judge, had all the time in the world to hear an advanced prepared bail petition of a notorious man. As expected,same was disposed off within no time.
If it comes to common man,he would need days and days, weeks and weeks to file a petition of this nature before same is admitted in a higher court. So the physical might as also money power assume significance. For the reasons best known to Mumbai Police and the Municipal authoroties, swift passage was ensured to the glamourous brothers, sisters and a battery of lawyers between the two far situated court complexes.
On top of it, no court will hear a plea of the common citizen after say, 4 or 5 pm on a routine day. In this case,the D&SJ worked 2.5 hours extra to ensure that the all powerful convicted and maligned criminal came out with flying colours between 7.10 and 7.15 pm. He was facilitated with an Interim Bail till Friday, the 8th of May,2015. Ironically, his widely reported serious Nerve disease got cured all of a sudden. Late in the evening, it was like a marriage celebration in the convenient company of fake actors who indulge into the intricacies of the dreamland at cost of the innocent emotions of the common man.
One has only talked about the processes,rightly or wrongly or hurriedly followed by the courts, Prosecution, Defence or the Police. What about the long sufferings or claims of the kith and kin of one dead and the continued physical trauma of 4 others, who were reportedly â€œpromisedâ€ adequate compensation during the trial stage. The Judge,I am sorry to state,has simply forgotten about it or has purposely done it or maybe, for him, only punishment was the top priority item. Certainly with todays turn of events, the victims may not have the courage and resources to to file even a review or appeal petition,forget about opposing what has been â€œawardedâ€. It may be interesting to note that in all high profile cases of hit and run by the celebrities,compensation was certainly awarded,even if punishment meted was far below the expectations.
Another issue which should not be ignored in this context is that in the cases of Jaylalitha and Raju Lingam, despite their mammoth power,nuissance and reach, interim bail was not given immediately or so easily. Same had taken a week or fortnight.So one has every reason to believe that Mumbai D&SJ has acted as also not acted or has come definitely under the undue pressure of of the High Court at the behest of some â€œinvisible handâ€
This case is no longer of a Media trial type. But for the media, people in general would not know the nuances of law, forget about even thinking about exploring the ways and means to secure justice, even if same appears to be delayed.
In sum and substance,the stand of the poor victims or whoever ignited their feelings, is certainly vindicated. Five victims in question may not have got the justice they deserved or had wished for. The door of High and Supreme Court still can be knocked.If same also fails, Justice will be ultimately dispensed with by the Almighty some day. Salman Khan may be inside jail on May 8, 2015 for a short or long duration (5 years) like Sanjay Dutt,But no sensible woman is likely to enter into a conjugal relationship with him even if same happens,either by crook or hook,she is bound to get the same inhuman and rough treatment earlier perpetrated to the likes of Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif and many other budding film actresses who would innocently become his ready â€œpreyâ€ at the various stages of their respective struggling careers.
The punishment prescribed by the Britishers for the Culpable Homicide Not amounting to murder would continue to play havoc with the innocent lots by assisting the filthy rich automobile owners.The pedestrians and road-users may continue to lose their life and limb unless drastic and human oriented amendments in relevant Acts see light of the day.
The Salman Khan case has given a fresh food for thought in public domain in the backdrop of 3 recent high profile cases of Delhi which would have been also suppressed and delayed further, but for the active media and some responsive and public spirited judges.
While at the upmarket Galaxy Apartments, majority of the film stars would be celebrating the un-deserved and out of way interim bail to the spoilt brat of the Indian Film Industry, the widow of the slain victim and the 4 partially handicapped persons may not have enough strength and courage to take their dinner even. This is how life has to go on in a so-called democratic country like ours. Nevertheless, it is said, â€œBhagwan Ke Ghar Me Der Hai, Par Andher Nahinâ€ (There may be delay in Godâ€™s Court, but there will not be always darkness).
(The writer is a senior IAS officer. Views expressed are personal)
By Alok K. Shrivastava