Friday, October 20, 2006

Article - Worth the Wait

By Gaurav Parab

Priyadarshini Mattoo. A name that signified all that was wrong with India. Priyadarshini Mattoo. The name that signifies all that could be right with India.

No matter how many warheads we design, how many billionaires live amongst us, how many people turn up to cast their vote every five years – a nation cannot claim to be a democracy, a free society, or an idea whose time has come unless justice is delivered, unless every audacious criminal is sent to his rightful place - the end of the hangman’s noose.

The young promising law student, whose life was brutally cut short, has received justice. Delayed perhaps, but not denied. A statement has been made. Committing a crime and getting away with it simply because you are well-connected just got a little tougher. There are judges who have a conscience, and there is an investigating agency which can work, albeit under tremendous public pressure. There still is hope for the common man.

A father’s long solitary call for justice, which found a voice across the entire nation, has finally been answered. His reaction best sums up what the judgment means. “Priyadarshani, up in heaven has finally found peace, because the judges down on earth have delivered”

The entire nation has three reasons to celebrate:

The media can be an effective mirror of public opinion, the judiciary can be quick when it wants to (The retrial was wrapped within a year of being reopened) and investigating agencies can be professional to nail the crooks.

I have always been a vocal critic of the media, but I must admit that the media did some things right this time around. Every rally that the Justice for Priyadarshani campaign organized was given its due coverage and the point that the case had gone on for too long was effectively driven home. The pressure was relentless. There had to be closure. Justice had to be delivered.

However, the media in the future has to be careful while covering such events. While it is fine to reflect public opinion, it is not correct to shape it. No matter how much we are convinced of a person’s involvement in a crime, we cannot paint him like a criminal. Nine times out of ten you may be right, but the one case where you get it wrong may end in a wrongful conviction. You may end up playing the devil.

Second, the Judiciary redeemed itself. The scathing attack on the trial court’s observations was long overdue. The strongly worded judgment healed a lot of wounds torturously opened by the trial court, which commented that even though it is convinced of the crime, it cannot pass a conviction. Plain speak and action – a combination we all can learn.

Third, the CBI professionally ensured a conviction this time around. An internal inquiry, as reported by NDTV on April 2nd 2006, had found that evidence was mishandled during the original trial to favor the accused. A key witness was not called to testify and forensic evidence was allegedly tampered with. This time around - there were no mistakes. Perhaps, the strings were cut off? One will never know.

The whole saga indicates that all is not lost. There is hope for victims of criminals who enjoy access to the corridors of power. The corridors just got closed for this case under tremendous public pressure. Let us hope that they remain closed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good piece.

I hope justice is delivered in Jessica Lal and Nitish Katara cases too. The signs are there that our judiciary is moving in the right direction but there is still a long way to go.

The acid test for our judiciary will be the reservation spate. The recent Supreme Court order reprimanding the government for the way it has handled the reservation issue is laudable. I believe that SC will deliver an anti-reservation verdict but then I am pretty sure it would lead to an ugly standoff between the judiciary and legislature. If required, parliament being supreme, will bypass the supreme court order by amending the constitution.

I am waiting for that day when all the pillars of democracy and the media will work in harmony.

It is then I feel I’ll be able to say that our time has come.

- Rahul Agrawal