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Systemic Failure

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Bail has been granted to Aryan Khan and others, closing one chapter in what promises to be a long saga of Bollywoodian proportions. Shah Rukh Khan did the right thing by focusing on what actually proceeded in the court, staying away from public drama and retained his dignity by doing so. However, the eco-system of which he is one of the leading lights – and it turns out it is not just Bollywood – worked actively to sensationalise the affair, not entirely how he would have liked it. Among other things, it became an occasion to prove one’s ‘secular’ credentials in the political arena.

Owing to the media interest in the story, the general public has learned an important lesson – there is no certainty of process under the law, even in the case of very rich, influential and popular personalities. As has been pointed out, there are lakhs of undertrials languishing in jail because of the inability to obtain bail for one reason or another, many due to sheer poverty.

On the other hand, seeing the travails of Sameer Wankhede, the officer leading the investigation in the ‘Aryan case’, it has become obvious how much certain classes of people can function with impunity in the present system. It would be natural to assume that a government investigator has the necessary protection needed to perform his or her duty. The shortcomings in this regard have been exposed in the present case – Wankhede has faced defamatory attacks as well as received direct and open threats from a minister in the Maharashtra Government, Nawab Malik. In the vast multiplicity of Indian laws and procedures, is there no protection for an officer in such a situation? Right now, it seems as though he has been hung out to dry by the establishment, having to be defended in the court of public opinion by his wife and sister against charges that have nothing to do with the case in hand.

It has been the trend for some time now for state governments run by parties in opposition to the BJP to use state machinery against central agencies. This is being done ostensibly to assert federal autonomy, but actually is designed to shore up particular votebanks, regardless of the actual issues involved or the long term implications. Even downright criminal elements are being afforded this protection, and even national security is being compromised. It is disheartening to note that the Union Government, despite all its tough talk, has failed to take appropriate action. This situation must be speedily remedied to prevent matters from going entirely out of hand.