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Tamil Amma

 

Satya Pal Singh. Editorial.V.XXII.XV

 

Jaya To Throw Weight Again!


 

Satya Pal Singh-fnbworld By Satya Pal Singh

 

 

 

Jayalalitha-the leading lady
once-fnbworld

When the wheels of justice grind at snail's pace for the common man in India, no one complains. But when powerful and the mighty get embroiled in criminal cases, mountain start falling. Slow delivery of "justice" brings with it premium for the rich, since in the available wide space of time, key witnesses can be effectively managed, intimidated or prevailed upon with temptations of lucre or some "long-term offers" that seldom come to public domain. 


Power of political patronage comes so heavy on the entire judicial system, from investigators, prosecutors to even judges, that veritable legalities are conveniently sidetracked. What remains is a fake war of words on two sides of the "legal battle" or the entry of some newly-invented, surprise elements in cases that serve as the deciding factors in delivery of final judgments. No wonder then, even if the most expensive, renowned top lawyers enter courts as "fixers."


Ms Jayaram Jayalalitha, most powerful leader of Tamil Nadu, better known as 'Amma' to anchor the Tamilian pride, is being brought back to govern the state once again, this time walking through the dark alley of brief jail incarceration. The AIADMK leader, who had been jailed by a trial court on what the prosecution claimed "irrevocable evidence", and then let off by a higher court in the disproportionate assets case, might be rejoicing today wondering how powerful is the business of 'big money' and how weak the country's criminal justice system which can be tossed about freely in a meandering playfield that looks more or less a preserve of rich and the mighty.

Jayalalitha: Size Matters

See the corollary: after 18 years of toil, a court found the former CM guilty of amassing unaccounted wealth and sentenced her to four years in jail. Seven months later, an appeals court cleared her of all corruption charges, maintaining that the trial court had erred in assessing her wealth. In establishing verity and finer prints of the verdict, the court also observed that "acquittal was a failure of the prosecution." 


A few days ago, Bollywood star Salman Khan was jailed by a sessions court, but managed to get bail within hours of approaching the higher court in a hit-and-run case in which he had crushed five people in drunken state on footpath, one of them dying on the spot and the rest maimed for life. It took 13 years for the Mumbai court to convict Salman of culpable homicide and sentence him to five years in prison despite prosecution witnesses turning hostile, but the High Court just took two hours to suspend his sentence and set him free on bail, declaring the lower court's verdict "erroneous."

 

Why and how did it happen ? Simply because the higher court focused on a "new witness" who had been dropped by prosecution at an early stage of the case, considering him insignificant. Then the question is : was that done deliberately to leave a significant loophole in the case ? All that came about so amazingly: one day it seemed that the rich and famous could face punishment for their unruly, criminal actions, but by next two days, the common man looked scrubbing his head.


In the case of B Ramalinga Raju, former head of Satyam Computers, it took six years for a court in April to declare him guilty of "criminal conspiracy and cheating" and convicted him for seven years in jail. A month later, the appeals court accepted a strange defence plea that he had spent 35 months in jail, a "substantial part of his term", and allowed him bail, suspending his sentence. It may look strange, but the fact is that powerful people charged with serious offences either manage to get the cases settled quickly in their favour or get them deferred indefinitely on the strength of their money bags or the positions of power.


Look at the high-profile cases of Ansal brothers, RJD leader Lalu Prasad, JMM leader Sibu Soren, INLD leader O P Chautala, businessman Sanjeev Nanda, underworld don Babloo Srivastava and a scores of others where justice and uprightness were systematically trampled. Unimaginably swift trials in cases involving powerful defendants not only give shock to the commoners, but also perturb the patrons of the judicial system. Who has forgotten senior Congress leader, former MP and senior lawyer R K Anand, Sanjeev Nanda's counsel, caught on tape fixing Nanda's acquittal for a few crore of rupees, sitting in a car ? People like him make justice a mockery and a salable commodity.


Are the above three recent court orders, in quick succession, indicative of our unfair and ailing justice system, which eventually goes in favour of the powerful people ? The Supreme Court itself admits that the" Indian judiciary is ignoring the common man while giving priority to rich, powerful and influential people in hearing cases." The court wants "some serious introspection" to overcome this kind of injustice.There are 65,000 cases pending in the apex court, a total of 42 lakh cases in high courts and a staggering 2.9 crore in trial courts


If great number of poor undertrials languish in our crowded prisons for small, insignificant offences, just because they can't afford bail, only our justice system is to blame. Why is there not a fixed criterion or a principle for granting bails ? Why is so much left for the court’s discretion ? Also, when verdicts of lower courts are set aside, especially when appellants happen to be powerful people, judges' rulings are normally viewed with suspicion. In such cases, even lawyers sometimes complain to the apex court on the "unfairness" of court orders, especially in post-conviction cases. I think time has come for the Supreme Court to give a serious thought to undo this almost institutionalized discrimination against the poor people in dispensation of justice.

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