Home >Opinion >Columns >The power play that skews our justice system

The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is the duty of the living to do so for them. This quote from Lois McMaster Bujold has been knocking at my heart and mind for the past few days. The reason? In one more high-profile case, the court found out that no convincing evidence was presented. Does it mean that the police, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or other investigation agencies do not function properly in such criminal cases? Do they get ‘managed’? Or do they have to act at the behest of ‘someone’, and are sometimes used as a tool of political revenge?

You must have guessed that I’m talking about Shashi Tharoor. On 17 January 2014, his wife Sunanda Pushkar was found dead at a five-star hotel in New Delhi. A murder case was registered against unknown persons on 1 January 2015 after a preliminary probe. After further investigation, a case was registered against the Congress MP. He was also charged for incitement to suicide. Tharoor is famous, so there was a commotion. The tumult was so strong that people began to feel that the public life of Tharoor might be endangered by the case, but he remained steadfast.

One can understand what kind of mental torture he must have endured during this long period. However, after examining a whole lot of 97 witnesses, Delhi Special Judge Geetanjali Goel found that none of the charges against Tharoor had any basis. So, he has been acquitted. Did the police file a charge sheet with the hope that the court itself would find out the criminal conspiracy during the examination of witnesses? In such a situation, there are many question marks on the working style of the Delhi Police, but this is not the only such case. Every investigation agency in India is dogged by such scandalous allegations.

You may remember the 2G case. Back then, it seemed as if the leaders of the Congress and DMK had crossed every limit of corruption. The then Union ministers D. Raja and Kanimozhi had to stay behind bars for months. Kanimozhi is the daughter of the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu, late M. Karunanidhi. His opponents made so much fuss on the issue that it adversely affected the DMK in the Lok Sabha and assembly polls. The DMK lost power and the Congress was defeated in an unprecedented manner, but what was the result? A special CBI court acquitted all the accused. One can ask who will compensate for the humiliation they had to endure? Will the mudslingers apologize?

The Bofors case was a similar story. Rajiv Gandhi was in power and the youth had high expectations. In 1989, he was defeated because of the case. Since then, the case has gone out of the public eye, but what about those who had hoped for a new dawn?

I say with regret that during the 74 years of Independence, the governments of every political colour have played a similar role in the misuse of investigation agencies. That is why the Madras High Court last week asked the CBI to get released itself from the cage. The title of ‘caged parrot’ was given to this premier investigation agency by none other than the Supreme Court.

In my 40-year career, when it comes to compliance with the law, I think of two people. One was a rickshaw puller, Jumman Khan, who was to be sentenced to death in Agra jail for murdering a teenage girl. A few days before the execution, a reporter met him. Bereft of all hope, he kept saying, “Babuji, I did not kill that girl." There is an old saying that a dying man never lies.

Similarly, in the 1980s, a man imprisoned for a long time was released thanks to some newspaper reports. That poor man named Deepchand was arrested during the British era on the suspicion of disturbing peace. In his case, bail could have been easily obtained, but he was poor and his family members did not have enough money to get him released. No one knew how he was sent to Naini jail from Kanpur. Decades passed, but he remained there. The court and officials took cognizance of the matter only after his sorry tale was published in a newspaper. By then, it was too late. Deepchand had reached old age. He neither remembered his home address, nor had any memory of his family. The prison was his only refuge. Even after his release, he was found wandering around the central jail with a deranged expression. He later died, banging his head against the walls of the prison.

What do the stories of Deepchand and the rickshaw puller tell? The convention created during the British era is still maintained today. Those in power can use the agencies to pursue their interest. Now is the time to change this evil trend. Citizens of a sovereign and democratic country have a fundamental right to live a life without discrimination, but when will that happen?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

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