Thursday, 28 March 2013

Celebrity above the Law?

By Shubhang Srivastava - National Institute of Technology, Raipur
Dear Mr. Katju,

I write this open letter to you on your seeking of pardon of Mr. Sanjay Dutt through the Governor of Maharashtra in the case relating to possession of illegal weapons. Sir, as a distinguished member of the Judiciary and incumbent chairman of the Press Council of India it is disheartening to find you indulging in such activities which amount to undermining of the orders of the Supreme Court.

I must preface my letter with the fact that I have no personal animosity towards Mr. Dutt, whom I find to be an able actor, and henceforth would refer him as the Actor. I write this letter to bring to light the difference created in our society by starry eyed Justices such as Mr. Katju.

In an article published in the Hindu (22-March-2013) Mr. Katju seeks pardon for the actor on the following grounds:
  • That he has not been found guilty in the 1993 Mumbai blasts
  • The Actor has suffered a lot during the period of twenty years of the trial where he had to take permission for foreign shoots and couldn’t get Bank loans.
  • The actor’s parents worked for the good of the society (and were also MP’s), often going to border areas to give support to our jawans.
  • And now the most epitome of ridiculous: Through his films he has revived the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and message of Gandhiji.
To any able headed persons the above propositions are absurd, and that coming from a former Supreme Court Judge they are all the more depressing. That a person whose responsibility had been to uphold law, “equally for everyone”, should pick up one case and use his powers to influence the matter is highly derogatory. Mr. Katju better than anyone knows the number of cases pending in the Indian Judicial system and still of all the people you believe that it is the actor who has suffered a lot? India is famous for a lot of things, judicial process is NOT one of them, and everyone who has to pass through its hollowing walls has to suffer. I respect the ruling of the court which exonerated the Actor in his association with the Mumbai blasts, but nonetheless found him guilty of possession of illegal weapons. Let us say the actor was a victim of the circumstances, caught in an illegal act at the wrong place (Mumbai) at the wrong time (December 1993), even then he broke the law. And this article is not about the actor actually, it’s about the flaws in our judicial process which had vertically divided the society into two: one for whom law is a tool and others for whom it is a fear.

What Mr. Katju has conveyed here is that is you are the have nots of laws then the judiciary is apathetic to you. Your sufferings die down and of course there are no governor given, PCI Chief facilitated pardons, for you. The stand of Mr. Katju is most depressing for a society that is still in a phase of transformation, his reasons downright silly.

Agreed the parents of the actors were great social workers, does that exonerate him from any offence and sentence awarded by the Supreme Court? By the poorest estimate a thousand people or more were involved in the making of Lage Raho MunnaBhai, does that exempt them from any form of offence, criminal or otherwise? And what about the viewers? Do they get a respite from small offence like parking challans if they were to produce tickets of the movie? The points put forward by Mr. Katju are lame, even to a rather under-studied person like me.

And if we were to agree to the validity of the above stated points of Mr. Katju and act upon them then should they also be applied to all individuals? If the Justice so believes then I admire his deep insight and he might just be a man of revolution who would step down from the Chair of PCI and study all such cases in the Indian courts and appeal for the Governor’s clement in cases he finds suitable?

Are you ready to do that? Or have you too become blind to the common man’s plight and focus years of experience into getting royal pardons for the people on the haves of the law? (It must be noted that it was he who pointed out the technicality in the sentence saying that if a minimum sentence is awarded in any case it can be considered by the Governor for clemency).

At a time when the world is keenly observing our law system such endorsements by Mr. Katju who represents the fraternity of Judiciary hangs my head in shame. The message we send across to the world is this: We will come down hard if your marines kill our citizens, even if the case is disputed of being within the ambit of our law (it is disputes if the Italian Marines were in international waters) we will overarch ourselves. If required we will revoke the immunity of your diplomat confronting the Vienna Convention but we have ways of keeping our favorite people (the rich and famous) out of bars.

While this letter may never reach you let me tell you that Mr. Katju here is one youth of the country who is disenchanted by you, is fast losing faith into the judiciary of India. It may never matter to you, for the judicial divide created by you I find myself on the wrong side, one that does not matter, and one that your star gazing eyes cannot see. In one of my interviews I was asked the question of what is wrong with India, today I would have begin with you.

If my letter or its conscience reaches you and you believe in what you said that study all the cases and show that the law is equal for all. But you won’t. Because you know it is not.

Before the letter is published the actor may be granted clemency, my best wishes to him, because even as I write hoards of actor-turned-old-turned-politicians are queuing outside the Governor’s office on the actor’s behalf. Only if they took such vigilance and sympathy in the life of every Indian.

Ps: My parent’s have not done social work, neither have I and for the record I have not watched the Munna Bhai movie in the threatres. God save me if I find myself on the wrong side of law.

Shubhang Srivastava,
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.
National Institute of Technology, Raipur.

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