SOROOR AHMED analyses three recent judgements and wonders whether our legal system is pro-rich, pro-upper caste and anti-poor, anti-backward, anti-tribal, anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim.
Three judgements, three personalities, three standards – all under one judicial system.
First came the ruling against cinestar, Sanjay Dutt. He was found guilty under the Arms Act. Hours later came the verdict against the former Union Coal Minister, Shibu Soren, who was convicted for murder of his own secretary and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was held responsible for masterminding the killing. Then came the punishment against the cricketer-turn-joker-turn-politician, Navjot Singh Sidhu, who along with an aide, beat to death 50-year-old Gurnam Singh for no cause whatsoever some 18 years ago. Gurnam just wanted to overtake Sidhu’s car.
A close examination of these three cases would reveal some interesting facts – the facts that the media deliberately chose to hide for obvious reasons. Despite Shibu Soren being a politician and serving Union Minister, the case against him took the least amount of time and he got the harshest punishment, too. In fact, the CBI even demanded that he should be hanged to death. This fact amply goes to prove that there was no interference in the case from the present political establishment.
After and before the judicial trial of Shibu came the media trial. He and all the politicians were pilloried. The JMM leader soon disappeared from the television screen. Shibu himself withdrew from the glare of public and started – as is his wont – keeping a low profile.
This notwithstanding the fact that his followers, especially the tribals strongly feel that he got such a harsh punishment simply because he represented the tongue-less and downtrodden section of the society and his secretary, Santosh Jha, was a Brahmin.
Sanjay Dutt essentially came from a family known for the contribution to the field of film. However, his father, Sunil Dutt, digressed into politics. He rose to become the Union Minister. After his death his daughter, Priya Dutt, fought the election and won the seat and is now MP. Thus the son of former ruling party minister (Late Sunil Dutt) and brother of the present MP (Priya Dutt) was found guilty of possessing AK-56 and was booked under the Arms Act. However, the court did not find any link with the terrorist groups.
Sanjay accepted the verdict. He did not boast and cry foul. The politician within his family – that is, Sister Priya – and the ruling combination at the Centre did not protest nor did they defend him. But the film fraternity did not take the verdict lying down. These ‘honourable’ gentlemen and women, so-called role models for a large section of common masses, opposed the court order yet the hypocrites among them dared to say that they are not saying anything against judiciary.
These ‘law abiding’ citizens decided to take up a signature campaign for Sanjay on December 12 and some of them even went to the extent of giving a call to shut the industry on that day. But why this signature campaign? If it is not against judiciary, then against whom? The Cine and TV Artistes Association shamelessly came up with a bizarre logic: the film industry aims at expressing views on Sanjay’s ‘humanitarian social contributions’ and that this move has nothing to do with the judicial process. But the big question is: why ignore the humanitarian social contributions of Shibu Soren? Sanjay can never match the social contributions of Shibu Soren, who is lovingly called Guruji by the tribals yet, to be honest, not a single politician ever came out defending the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader.
However, the film stars abruptly withdrew their signature campaign on December 9 evening when Public Prosecutor, Ujawwal Nikam, threatened to start the contempt case against the different film associations. The truth is that the court can itself take suo moto action against them. Sensing further trouble, Sanjay Dutt too distanced himself from the whole campaign and appealed to various film bodies not to undertake any such exercise.
Then came the case of shameless Navjot Singh Sidhu, the latest entrant in the field of politics, and his party of drug addicts, smugglers, rioters and hardened criminals. The Lal Krishna Advanis have no faith in the rule of law. The Babri Masjid demolition case, God knows why, is still to reach the final stage notwithstanding the passage of proverbial 14 years. For a moment accept Advani and company’s logic that judiciary cannot come in the way of faith and that whatever they did on December 6, 1992 was right. But can’t judiciary come in the way of drug addicts like Rahul Mahajan and ‘murderers’ like Navjot Singh Sidhu? Judiciary has every right to do so. But paying utter disregard to the law of the land and the essence of judiciary, the BJP decided to project Sidhu as the star-campaigner for the Punjab assembly election. Ironically, all this happened when late Gurnam Singh’s family kept talking about the pressure on them.
Sidhu, incidentally walked away with the lightest of punishment. Even a section of judiciary was surprised.
The maximum punishment under 304 (B) – Sidhu was booked under this Section – is 10 years. The victim’s family members have decided to move the Supreme Court as they feel that the punishment is too light.
The three judgements which came recently openly suggest that the media, especially the television channels, the cinestars, the entertainers, the ex-cricketers and the Sangh Parivar have no respect whatsoever for the law of the land. Yet these are the people who talk most about morality and find all the faults with the politicians as such.
And judiciary too will have to answer one question: why it took 11 long years, that is between 1988 and 1999, for the lower court in Patiala to solve the case involving Sidhu when he was neither a politician nor a real great cricketer in the beginning. And that judgement too went in favour of Sidhu. In the last seven years the case had been pending with the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Sidhu was never a politician before 2004. He joined the party and overnight became an MP.
Is our legal system pro-rich, pro-upper caste and anti-poor, anti-backward, anti-tribal, anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim? It is not simply the question of politicians getting benefit of the power they wield? It all depends on the class of politicians.