Unequal justice by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (June 27, 2015)

Comment

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam


A democracy is known by its fair play to all its citizens and equality before law. Sadly, it has become a pattern in India that some go scot free and others are heavily punished for committing the same crime. The judiciary, helped by government, has gone soft in cases involving the rich and the resourceful and hard in those involving the poor, the resourceless, the minorities.

The revelation by former Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian, assigned the 2008 Malegaon blasts, said that right after the NDA came into power, she began to be pressurised to go soft on the Hindutva activists charged with these attacks. Unable to meet the government’s demand, she has resigned. She has said an NIA (National Investigation Agency) official had personally met her with the demand.

Families of victims (all Muslims) have said they were not surprised to know about Salian’s disclosure. The state was not interested in delivering justice right from the beginning as all the accused were well-known people connected to RSS and allied violent, Hindu right-wing organisations. In this case the late Hemant Karkare, then chief of Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), had found the involvement of retired and serving officers of the Indian Army as well.

After the takeover of Modi government victims and their families were apprehensive that more aggressive attempts would be made to derail the case. Congress leader Digvijay Singh has said that during UPA rule the Sangh and its political arm, BJP, had been trying to put pressure on Manmohan Singh to help soften the case against the Hindutva votaries charged with this crime. BJP’s top leaders had tried to bully the UPA government before they came down to polite arguments.

To say the least, it is not the sign of a democracy’s health when the justice delivery system is sought to be undermined by powerful people. Following similar tampering with cases in Gujarat courts against perpetrators of the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002, the Supreme Court had fruitfully and laudably transferred some of the cases to courts outside the state. It immensely helped the cause of justice.

The attempts to derail justice this time are more ominous and difficult to deal with. Such insidious and mala fide acts by government agencies are systemic and deeply entrenched in power, beyond the capability of weak and vulnerable victims to rectify. Only institutional checks and larger public movements can effectively stop them. Nothing of that sort, regrettably, is in sight at the moment.

All that we have is the hope that good sense will prevail in the government and it will refrain from sinking further in the morass of corruption and cronyism in which it has got caught so early in its tenure. The NDA government stands charged with the same sins within a year of its rule which took nearly eight years to catch the UPA. The government will do well to avoid such controversies and let justice prevail for the good of the country and for its own good.

 

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