Saturday March 23, 2019
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Indian law delivers ‘justice’ to Salman Khan

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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.

https://twitter.com/FarahKhanAli/status/595860619724660736

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.

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People with Albinism Face Great Difficulties in Seeking Justice

Ero says persons with Albinism suffer from discrimination, stigma and social exclusion

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FILE - People with albinism pose with campaigners for their rights in the capital of Lilongwe, Malawi, in early 2016 before the start of street protests against attacks. VOA

The Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism reports people with this condition have great difficulty getting justice or recompense for physical attacks and other harmful practices against them and their families. The expert’s latest report has been under debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Last year has been a particularly difficult one for persons with albinism in southern Africa. UN expert, Ikponwosa Ero says she has received numerous reports of abhorrent attacks against them.

From past experience, she says it is likely the number of reported cases does not reflect the true magnitude of the problem. Over the past decade, she says there have been more than 700 cases of attacks in 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. She notes these are reported cases. Most, she says, are never brought to light.

albinism, justice
FILE – The U.N.’s independent expert on human rights and albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, addresses a news conference at the end of her official visit to Malawi on April 29, 2016. VOA

Worldwide, Ero says persons with Albinism suffer from discrimination, stigma and social exclusion. She says they are subject to physical attacks and harmful practices related to certain beliefs in magic and witchcraft. However, when they seek redress, she says persons with albinism too frequently are denied access to justice.

“Overall, in terms of these criminal cases, inordinate delays are common in prosecuting cases of serious charges such as murder and mutilation. Cases with relatively lesser charges such as threats and possession of exhumed body parts from gravesites are — depending on the country in question — either prosecuted relatively quickly or are not taken seriously at all.”

Ero says there are many barriers to access to justice, including lack of knowledge by victims on how the justice system works. She says discrimination from members of the legal community and the inability to pay the costs associated with going to court are other impediments.

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The independent expert says specific measures must be taken to improve access to justice for persons with albinism. She recommends victims and their relatives be given protection to encourage them to come forward with evidence of a crime. She says they also should be rehabilitated.

Ero says persons with albinism who are seeking justice should receive legal aid and laws should be amended to take into account the threats targeting this particular group. (VOA)