Indian law delivers ‘justice’ to Salman Khan


Salman Khan was finally acquitted of serious charges of running over five people, killing one and seriously injuring four while ‘allegedly’ driving his Land Cruiser on the fateful night of September 28, 2002. The Bombay High Court said that the prosecution had failed to establish “beyond doubt” that the actor was driving the car and was drunk at the time of the accident.

While giving this judgment, the court disregarded and discredited the testimony of Ravindra Patil – Khan’s bodyguard and a key prosecution witness – who had said that the Bollywood superstar was driving in an inebriated condition and had ignored his repeated warnings.

According to the judge, Patil was “partly reliable” and could not be considered a “wholly reliable witness” and that the sessions court committed a mistake by relying on his statement.

“On the basis of evidence produced by the prosecution, (Salman Khan) cannot be convicted, no matter how differently the common man thinks,” the judge said.

Verily, may I ask, my Lords, have common man’s views ever mattered to you? The truth is Indian law is not blind; it is the slave to the rich and powerful, meant to be broken by them with impunity; only the common man is supposed to follow the law and be punished for breaking it.

Alas, the vices of the poor people wearing old and torn clothes come to the fore easily while the same from big people like judges get hidden behind the robes and furred gowns they wear. Shakespeare writes in King Lear that the bitter truth is a sinner occupying a high status in life goes entirely unpunished while a sinner who belongs to a low and humble life cannot escape punishment. Sigh!

Ironically, this judgment comes when the world is observing the Human Rights Day.

Ponder over this – five wretched, destitute people sleeping over the footpath were crushed under Khan’s car and the first thing the actor did was to run away to home; a homeless human being, Nurullah Mahboob Shaikh, died on the spot that night. What about his human rights? Khan who runs a charitable trust ‘Being Human’ failed the test of humanity then.

But do we even consider people sleeping over footpath as human beings? One can only protect the human rights of those who are fortunate enough to have them in the first place. Justice and human rights go hand in hand and the former should be the basis on which the latter should be assessed. If a poor man’s family cannot avail justice in India even after running from pillar to the post for years, it only means the majority of the country’s population that lives below the poverty line is being deprived of the basic privilege i.e. the Right to Life.

It’s always the common man’s fault. When a young girl died after her car was hit by Hema Malini’s Mercedes, the latter blamed her father for “not following traffic rules.”

When Salman was convicted in the hit-and-run case, yesteryear’s actor Sanjay Khan’s daughter Farah Khan blamed Nurullah for sleeping over the footpath, calling upon the government to ensure housing for such people.

Today, the actor’s delirious fans are celebrating on the streets by dancing and bursting crackers, not realizing that a man – who had eyes, hands, five senses, passions and emotions – died allegedly because of their God-like ‘bhai’.

In fact, the common man has become accustomed to being subjected to such injustices. The truth is – and this is not in regard to this particular case – no institution in India is allegedly more corrupt than the judiciary.

From petty cases to high-profile ones, it is widely believed that judges give favorable judgments in lieu of a huge (or small) amount of money. I was once told by an acquaintance how a relative of his was acquitted of a criminal offence by paying a bribe to the judge. I cannot ascertain the veracity of his claims, but the common man’s experiences are not hidden from anyone.

According to  justice Markandey Katju (retd), 50% of the higher judiciary consisting of SC and high court judges is corrupt.

“My assessment is that 50% of the higher judiciary has become corrupt,” Katju said in September this year. He also claimed that no action was taken after he handed over a dossier on Chief Justice of India HL Dattu’s alleged properties to then law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and others.

“I was targeted by former chief justice RM Lodha for my views. Let it all be investigated. SC judges are annoyed. But I am not bothered…,” Katju claimed.

Until and unless efforts are made to cleanse the judiciary that is supposed deliver justice to one and all, we would not be able to find lasting solutions to India’s social issues.

Justice should not only be done but must also be seen to be done.