Have you heard about Kawasi Hidme? Chances are high that you have not. How about Salman Khan? Have you heard about him? Of course you have, especially nowadays when everyone has an opinion on the recent verdict against him and the subsequent bail.
This post is not about whether it is right to jail or bail Salman Khan, whether he is guilty or not, but about the bigger picture. To me, justice delayed is justice denied. I question the impact on our society of such drawn out judicial wrangling.
To me, the most pressing point with Salman's verdict is not whether the law is equal for rich and poor, powerful or weak. I am more concerned with the fact that we have so many loopholes in our judicial system that it takes years to send a message to society. A case takes 10-20 years to reach the final judgment. Sometimes, the perpetrator or the accused is dead by the time the case reaches its final stages. Even in the 2012 Nirbhaya case, which shook the entire nation and roused us from our armchair analysis and pushed us into the streets in protest, is still pending with the Supreme Court. Even a recent documentary controversy didn't shake our system to bring the case to its closure as soon as possible.
"[Salman] is innocent until he is proven guilty. Meanwhile, the converse holds true for some under trials who are forced to endure years in prison...They are guilty until proven innocent. "
On the other hand, a rich and powerful person is able to roam freely while the legal proceedings against him stop and start. Thanks to his expensive lawyers, he is able to start a 100-crore club, an NGO and changes his girlfriends as he does his clothes. He is innocent until he is proven guilty. Meanwhile, the converse holds true for some under trials who are forced to endure years in prison while waiting for the wheels of justice to turn. They are guilty until proven innocent.
This brings me back to my first question - have you ever heard of Kawasi Hidme?
Don't worry she is not a celebrity and even I came across her story only recently on a blog, Colours of the Cage, I stumbled across.
You will find hardly any reports about her case online. There is nary a mention of her in the newspapers that are too busy covering the Salman Khan case and IPL. But that doesn't change the fact that this tribal woman from Chhattisgarh's Bastar region, lost seven precious years of her young life being tortured (her uterus was ejected from her body, possibly due to sexual abuse), harassed and humiliated in different police stations until the system found her innocent and released her. Her fault --she was not famous and couldn't afford famous lawyers to keep her out of jail. Seven years of a young life wasted for alleged Maoist activity while we have an actor minting crores for 13 years even when he's charged with culpable homicide.
There are still thousands of Kawasis who become prey to goons in the garb of police and such injustice for years. Stories we have never heard, stories that will remain unheard, underlining the fact that our justice system is shamefully prone to misuse and abuse.
In addition, the case of Salman Khan juxtaposed against the case of Kawasi Hidme shows how the messages of humanity, morality and ethics are disregarded by our sensationalism-loving media and its consumers. To quote the Greek statesman Solon:
"Laws are like spiders' webs: if some light or powerless thing falls into them, it is caught, but a bigger one can break through and get away."