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Small Mercy

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Whatever celebrations there are on Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s conviction, for leading a lynch mob during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, should be tempered with the realisation that he will appeal to the Supreme Court and will, soon, be out on bail. His lawyers will try and ensure, first, that the matters take as long as possible to resolve, even as they work for an acquittal. Amidst all the political back and forth on Monday, this is exactly what Congress leader and SC lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi had to point out. He knows a thing or two about what happens in the quest for justice in this country.
The truth is that, given the system, Sajjan Kumar would have got away a long time ago had it not been for the fact that he was pitted against the powerful Sikh community, which is determined to obtain justice for the victims of 1984. When it comes to individual victims, the system is too heavily tilted in favour of the rich and powerful. India’s legal brains have not been able to devise processes and systems that would cut through all the procedures which supposedly protect the innocent, but end up helping the guilty. ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is an adage being lived to its utmost by the Indian people. All the breakthroughs in jurisprudence take place in the developed countries and are adopted in some partial way in India, only later. This is irrespective of the applicability or suitability of the process in India.
The only recourse to developing challenges are specifically targeted laws for categories of crime, which more often than not are misused because of their desperate draconian nature. Ask any person on the street for a list of which these are and it will prove a long one. The actual punishment in many cases is the arduous process everybody involved has to go through – victim and perpetrator, alike. The verdict comes, as in the case of Sajjan Kumar, when there can be no real recompense of any kind. Without money and power, the victims just give up, while the prosecutors lack motivation and resolve to continue the fight.
All that is left is the opportunity to exchange political brickbats. In the present, Sajjan Kumar’s conviction sheds light on similar accusations against newly inducted Chief Minister of MP, Kamal Nath. The Congress responds with the allegations against Prime Minister Modi in the context of the Gujarat Riots. The BJP recalls Rajiv Gandhi’s inaction during the ’84 riots and his infamous statement providing absolution to the rioters, ‘When a big tree falls, the earth will shake’. India still has a long way to go before innocence and guilt can be quickly determined. Till then, people will have to make do with the small mercies.