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Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

After what seems like an eternity, the Delhi High Court convicted Manu Sharma for the murder of Jessica Lal. Though the murder took place in 1999, it has taken seven years to announce this verdict, after witnessing a series of events that would put even a Bollywood masala flick to shame.

Seeing these events unfold, it is abundantly clear that the police and our judicial system have a long way to go before any actual punishment can be meted out to the wrongdoers. What is even more worrying is the time taken to announce all these verdicts, especially where the accused is a high profile person. In several cases, this person has had a chance to re-establish his reputation to an extent where public opinion has actually turned in his favour. This new public persona of the accused then forces the law agencies on the back foot, with dharnas, morchas and signature campaigns on his behalf.

To look back on recent history, Sanjay Dutt was held guilty of keeping arms illegally, but not of terrorism. From the moment he first went to jail, 13 years have elapsed. During that time, he has acted in several films and most notably the hit Munnabhai series. People today may find it difficult to believe Dutt could be guilty, but may not have had any such qualms back in 1993, when he acted in movies like Khalnayak, and when his image was still that of a junkie and a drug addict. However, to imagine such a lovable guy like Murliprasad Sharma a.k.a Munnabhai guilty of terrorism just cannot be accepted by the public now.

Similarly, the case against Navjyot Singh Sidhu also came up more than a decade ago, and during that time, he has established his reputation as a witty (some may question this on account of his verbal diaorrhea!) commentator, ready with a one-liner on demand, not to mention judging laughter shows et al. The moment the sentence was announced, the public came out in full force, supporting him all the way.

This is true of the above mentioned Jessica Lal case, which was revived mainly due to public outcry, the Nitish Katara case, the BMW hit and run case, and many others which seem to follow a pattern. In all cases, the delay in every process, like filing an FIR, making arrests, gathering evidence, putting up a proper case etc has led to problems. During this time, there is ample opportunity to destroy / manipulate evidence, fudge official records, induce key witnesses to turn hostile / disappear from the scene and many more such shenanigans. In some cases, several of the protagonists are not even alive by the time the verdict is announced.

These verdicts, delivered after such a long delay, hardly comes as a relief to anyone, least of all the people most affected by the trauma of losing a loved one. It is high time our law enforcing agencies and the judiciary speed up the process of delivering justice.

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