5 August 2020 12:55 PM



Random thoughts on Random Justice: "It Starts With the First Information Report"

NEW DELHI: My experience of working as a police officer in the badlands of UP convinces me that much of the scaffolding around the structure of justice, is built on lies.

It starts with the First Information Report (FIR).The widow of the murdered man in the outback is illiterate. Relatives and people from her husband’s faction descend like vultures and rope in their enemies in the FIR. She, poor lady, puts her thumb print under whatever falsehoods (and of course a bit of truth) is written in the report. Then both sides, the prosecution and the defense, coach their witnesses how exactly to lie, both ‘eye witnesses’ and the alibi wallahs.

Lawyers get totally involved in this charade. If the murder weapon, or stolen property (in case it was a robbery-cum-murder), is recovered from a man not named in the FIR, the investigating officer lets out a curse and runs to his senior officers and the public Prosecutor, asking how best to maneuver around this inconvenient fact. Then both sides lie in the court leaving it to the poor judge to decide who lied less.

So far so bad. But what if the police hounds are on the right scent and about to clinch matters with an arrest? The politico turns round and says, ‘do you want my government to fall! If you charge so and so, that’s what could happen!’ Then the case could go in cold storage in the old days. Now of course the media would kick up a racket and things could again get on course.

But then how do you explain the behavior of the CBI when dealing with big politicos of UP and Bihar? It would move fast forward or switch off as the UPA remote control directed. No wonder the Supreme Court likened the agency to a parrot, a comparison which flocks of parakeets as they fly over BudhJayanti Park at dusk, protest vehemently against. May I add here that in most other cases the CBI does an excellent job.

There is another angle. Sometimes the higher courts jump in. There needs to be a study of cases under Prevention of Corruption Act, especially regarding the Disproportionate Assets angle. How many have been acquitted on the ground that the investigating agency or the lower court had miscalculated the amount of allegedly corrupt money or assets?

A study also needs to be made about cases where the eye witness, after recording his or her statement before a magistrate under section 164 of the CRPC, unfortunately dies before the trial, and the prosecution finds that his statement has now no value because the dead witness cannot be cross examined! This kind of case law would encourage the accused party to bump off witnesses! Press reports say that seven witnesses have been bumped off in the Asaram case. What about witness protection? Or does it mean that if a sadhu or a sadhvi is in the dock, witnesses need to look after themselves?

Is there any consistency in applying the law? Are we living in one country and are we governed by one law?

There have been two big agitations for reservations, one in Gujarat by the Patidars and one by Haryana Jats in February this year. The Haryana havoc was truly great and the state came to a grinding stop. Highways were blocked, non Jats, especially the Sainis were attacked. Twenty odd people were killed and over two hundred injured.

The death toll in Gujarat was much less.Things were not as dismally bad in Gujarat. Yet Hardik Patel, the leader is rotting in jail for over two hundred days, charged with sedition! The sedition charge was not applied in Haryana. The Gujars were never charged with sedition in Rajasthan some years back when they asked for OBC status.

Does it mean that now politicos decide under what section a person can be charged? Or is it the sycophantic police officers who anticipate the politician’s wish?

Talking of sedition, even the JNU boys have been charged with sedition under the regime of the previous Police Commissioner of Delhi who has been rewarded with membership of the UPSC—a six year term, if one is not mistaken.

But the icing on the cake, the layer of cream on a two foot tall Punjabi glass of lassi, is the Malegaon affair. It reinforces my faith in India’s pluralism—because there were three agencies investigating the same case and charging three different sets of people. The Malegaon affair needs a scholarly book which unravels the whole shoddy episode.

Let’s call a spade a spade. To the undying shame of the Indian police, it charged various batches of innocent Muslims in various states for planting bombs that killed Muslims, under the specious plea that the deed was done with the aim of creating a rift between the communities. Apart from being malicious and communal, the plea was also stupid. Nothing happened to the police officers who charged innocents in five such cases. The Samjhauta Express, Makka Masjid in Hyderabad and Malegaon cases are just three of the ones that come to mind.

(Maharashtra SIT chief) Hemant Karkare’s team charged Lt.Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, the so called seer of the the outfit ‘Abhinav Bharat’, and others for the Malegaon blast. When Hemant Karkare was martyred everyone extolled him. Today I believe he is excoriated in the worst terms by some fanatics of the right. When I was with the National Commission for Minorities, an IG from the NIA came and said specifically that the nine Muslims accused were innocent . (Still it took the machinery of justice three years to acquit them finally.)

Equally horrendous would be the case if the real culprits go scot free with the connivance of the prosecution. Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, on whose motor cycle the bomb was placed which killed 37 Muslims, has already been discharged by the court. Seventeen witnesses have turned hostile. That brave Special Prosecutor Rohini Salian complained about the pressure from NIA to go soft on the case and she even named an SP who was asked to pressurize her. What about Swami Aseemanand’s confession before a magistrate under section 164 CRPC?

What about these fringe outfits, Abhinav Bharat and Sanathan Sanstha, the last named being accused of murdering Dabholkar, Pensare and Kalburgi which created a furore , forcing many of us to return our awards? Do these Hindutva outfits think they have a free hand now to deal with people as they like?

One is aware of political realities. It would have been a great blow to the UPA if Ottavio Quattrocchi, the conduit for the Bofors money, had been convicted. He was allowed to go free, bag, baggage and bank balance. Remember our Foreign Minister Madhav Singh Solanki telling the Swiss Foreign Minister Rene Felber to forget the cooperation on the Bofors scam. Similarly one can’t imagine the current regime sending a Sadhvi to jail. Except that in this case, 37 people were killed, one hundred injured, innocents of their own community spent ten years in Jail.

Well, well, as the Indian Charlie of the forties used to exclaim, “Hey Bhagwan, what about Hindustan?”

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