‘Justice for All’ at Last?
When Mass Murderers and Political Assassins Roam Free?
-- Political ObserverS
ome recent court verdicts seem to have triggered a media celebration about the law finally catching up with criminals and justice becoming available to the people. The conviction of Shibu Soren for the murder of his private secretary, the sentence given to BJP MP and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu for causing death in a so-called case of ‘road rage’ and the renewed prosecution and conviction of Manu Sharma and others who had earlier been acquitted and virtually allowed to walk away with the murder of Jessica Lall are all being cited to claim that the law is now indeed becoming equal for everybody and even the ‘high and mighty’ will not be spared any longer.
While the judgements have indeed been remarkable in the contemporary context of criminalisation of politics and given the sordid record of the justice-delivery system in India, the tall claims regarding equality before law and equal access to justice can only be taken with a cup of salt.
Let us take the most ‘shocking’ of these judgements – the life sentence for Shibu Soren, the first ever conviction of a central minister on a murder charge. The case will now surely go to the Supreme Court and we will have to wait for the final pronouncement from the highest court of law in this country. While leaving that to the Supreme Court we cannot but look at the other glaring facts associated with the case. The murder of Shashinath Jha, Soren’s private secretary, was clearly an offshoot of the infamous JMM bribery case. Four JMM MPs including Soren were reportedly bribed to the tune of Rs. 5 crore by Congress managers to buy their votes in favour of the Narasimha Rao government in the early 1990s. This is how the minority Congress government survived its full five-year term from 1991 to 1996 – but the Congress has not had to bear any of the blame!
Jha was apparently murdered because as Soren’s private secretary he was witness to the whole bribery case and privy to a lot of information which he had threatened to divulge. This murder happened ten years ago and the case has since been under the CBI scanner. Meanwhile, neither the BJP nor the Congress had any problem doing business with Soren. The Congress even inducted him twice into the cabinet knowing full well that Soren stood a perfect chance of being convicted. The Congress does not have to suffer any penalty or even offer any explanation for either the bribery or the opportunist political use it made of Soren in the UPA. If the Congress finds it easy to dump Soren today it is perhaps because the ruling elite can see a new tribal politician emerging in the form of Babulal Marandi. Unlike Soren, Marandi is not tied to any inconvenient encumbrances of a militant past and from the ruling elite’s point of view he is perhaps the right kind of tribal political face that needs to be promoted in the era of globalisation with mineral-rich Jharkhand attracting so much corporate attention.
And can we start talking about the rule of law simply because one Shibu Soren has been convicted when the law has failed to take any action against persons like Narendra Modi and Advani who have been directly responsible for mass murders killing thousands and thousands of innocent people? Till perpetrators of communal riots and dalit massacres are brought to justice, the rule of law will remain an empty phrase. And let us not forget the innumerable cases of atrocities by the police, paramilitary and other armed forces in which no punishment has been meted out on the plea that the morale of the forces would be affected!
A few individual cases here and there would not change the pattern. They will rather remain exceptions that would prove the rule of impunity that holds valid for most political and economic crimes. Even while welcoming the long overdue justice for Jessica, we cannot but remember that the assassins of Shankar Guha Niyogi and Chandrashekhar, Manju Devi and Mahendra Singh and countless others are still beyond the proverbial long arm of the law.