Monday, December 27, 2010

System of criminal justice in total disarray

A special Sessions Court in Chhattisgarh has sentenced the well-known paediatrician and public health expert and equally well-known sympathiser of the cause of Naxalism, Dr. Binayak Sen, to life imprisonment for sedition. His crime - carrying three letters written by jailed Naxalites, helping a couple of Naxalites to rent houses and open bank accounts, and some such other things, but definitely not inciting violence or armed rebellion against the state which according to the Supreme Court of India fall under the definition of sedition. Of course, there would be an appeal to the High Court against the judgment and then finally there is the Supreme Court. But the very fact that Sen has got life imprisonment for a crime which can not be termed as sedition should be contrasted with a case in Maharashtra, a few years ago, in which a person, who was accused of hiring professional killers to murder his intra-Congress party rival, the District Congress Committee president, was let go by the Central Bureau of Investigation for want of prosecutable evidence. This happened in spite of some persons having given evidence that they had heard some others saying that they had committed the murder after having been hired by the DCC president's rival. Perhaps it is a matter of some coincidence that the accused's sister was the governor of Rajasthan when the CBI decided to look at him so kindly. She then went on to become the president of India, ironically as the nominee of the same Congress party.

We also have the ludicrous case of some petty government official recently sentenced by the Supreme Court to one year's rigorous imprisonment for accepting a bribe of fifty rupees in the year 1993. In a country where those responsible for scams for tens of thousands of crore rupees, be it in the Commonwealth Games or in the Adarsh Cooperative Building Society, are not even dislodged from their Union ministerial perches, what to talk of suffering any punishment like jail terms, frowning at a bribe of fifty rupees is laughable. If the Supreme Court is so particular about upholding the letter and spirit of law, how has it been allowing the CBI to change its stance on charges of holding assets disproportionate to known sources of income against politicians to suit the convenience of the ruling United Progressive Alliance at the Centre?

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