Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jessica Lal case - Hope ?

For some time now I have been following the Jessica Lal case through the newspapers, its twists and turns. This case is a very important case (maybe not recognized now, but surely as time goes on). One feels deeply for the loss of a promising life, but it was the manner in which this happened that was truly shocking. A guy, refused a drink, shoots the bartender in the head (who happened to be Jessica Lal). Such is the arrogance of the rich and connected who either feel that they have the right to get what they want, or even more dangerously, have the right to do what they want with the conviction that nothing will ever happen to them.
This is indeed a test of the Indian system, and will set plenty of precedents. This is a case that was supposed to be an open and shut case, and yet where the investigating authorities botched up the case (the court is investigating whether such is indeed the case), where the well connected and incredibly rich father did what he could to subvert the system, buying witnesses to get them to turn hostile. A public outcry forced the re-opening of the case, but if this also does not get a conviction, then there is little hope when anybody wants to go against somebody who is rich and powerful. We might as well behave like little cowards and lower our eyes the next time we pass somebody who is rich and powerful.
The other area in which this case should cause a precedent is in the way witnesses are treated in our system. Because our cases take so much time to solve, it gives the powerful enough time to tamper with witnesses and we have the painful spectacle of witnesses turning hostile. Do people really think that judges do not believe that the accused is guilty ? But because our judicial system is rightly geared to protect the innocent, we have to get a conviction based on evidence (including witnesses), and when witnesses turn hostile, the case loses it power.
I was reading an article about a case (not sure whether the same one) where the judge has called for prosecution for witnesses who turn hostile. This is an important part of the judicial system that is fast and efficient (as in the US), and should be codified in law as fast as possible (if not already present in law).
Why did I talk about hope in the begining ? Because a public outcry has forced the case to re-open, because the high and mighty have been felled from their Govt position due to moral outrage, and because the court is prompting the police to clean their stables, reveal previous deliberate and accidental short-comings and do a good investigation this time. Hopefully, my hope will be proved right.

Article at Times of India
Take a look at this link, look at the photo in the link, look at the life in the photo that was so cruelly snuffed out. Think about how this could be your neighbour or a person living in your colony. We need to regain the need to get shocked by such things when they happen. That is the best test for whether we have a strong sense of morality and whether we can fully develop into a society that is bound by rules. Do not forget !!
What does this mean in a practical sense - care for things happening around you; write in your blog about things that outrage you; write letters to newspapers about these; if you have the ability to write columns in the media, please do so; take some time out if you see silent and peaceful demonstrations happening (these are composed of people like you and have the ability to shake the powers-that-be). If this case can be resolved, it gives more hope for other cases such as the Priyadarshini Mattoo case, the Nitish Katara case, and numerable other such cases.

This poem (linked below) affected me deeply since it cuts right to the feeling of detachment that we have, unless we speak up for others, why should we expect others to speak up for us when our turn comes..
Link to poem

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:24 AM