By Maxwell Pereira
is about film star Salman Khan and his conviction for killing
the Chinkara of the endangered species. There has been much furore,
breast-beating and rallying round for expressing solidarity….
on the part of his large fan-club both locally at the scene-of-crime-and-court
in Jodhpur Rajastan, and more on home turf in Mumbai. The conviction
has also attracted considerable amount of indignant criticism
from the film fraternity who perhaps feel specifically targeted;
and has generated debate among a wide cross-section of the citizenry
and the media who have unabashedly thrown the convicting magistrate
to the wolves.
vastly touted reaction voiced and projected by the actor’s
bollywood buddies sought to tell all what a nice guy Salman is,
and how an insensitive system has made him a victim because of
his celebrity status – while actual murderers involved in
more serious and heinous cases cock a snook at the Criminal Justice
system (CJS). Preity Zinta was the first to state this on camera
while reacting to the acquittal of all the accused in the Jessica
Lall murder case. If one were to be taken in by this argument,
there would be no end to such. One must realise two wrongs cannot
make a right. We cannot on the one hand complain about the suborning
of the CJS in the likes of the Jessica Lall and the Nitish Katara
cases and equally complain on the other when Salman is convicted
after a full trial without hostile or perjured witnesses. In the
Salman case, one must admire the tenacity exhibited by the local
Bishnoi community who doggedly pursued the case providing crucial
evidence that nailed him.
detractors have argued against the judgement, “….if
killing of two Indian gazelle – Chinkaras of the animal
world can land Salman behind bars, then why those accused in the
human killings of the Priyadarshini Mattoo and Jessica Lal cases
are allowed to move around scot free? If law is equal for all,
then why a man is punished for killing Chinkaras when others involved
in human killings get acquitted?
then the subjective bias of those speaking in favour of Salman.
Listening to a cross-section of voices on television on the issue,
one was further amazed to hear some go to the extent of saying
“….if Salman Khan has killed the chinkaras….
which is yet to be proved….!” Will some one ask these
worthies whether a sentence in a trial comes after the guilt is
proved beyond all reasonable doubt, or there is yet something
more to be proved even after a fair trial that took over five
years to conclude!
have tried to brush aside the super star’s aberration as
a trivial crime, arguing that this by any other ordinary person
would have attracted less legal scrutiny, ignored as a minor matter
not worth the laboriously grinding wheels of law and justice to
be set in motion.
The counter view too, questioning the right of any one to decide
whether the actor’s deed was a trivial crime or not? That
he has a history of criminal behaviour for treating law as if
it is in his pocket. That by punishing him rightly and justly
the right signals have been sent down, unequivocally sending out
messages which are welcome and over due: That any one breaking
the law would similarly face punishment irrespective of the face
he portrays to the public. That Wildlife Protection laws are viewed
seriously, and the days of the lords and serfs with some people
deemed above the law being a thing of the past.
super smart media mandarins have reacted cautiously, stating it
is not any one’s case that the slayer of the endangered
species of deer be “simply rapped on the knuckles and let
off”. In an across the board opinion in most editorials
and comments, the quantum of punishment meted out is under attack.
That a prison sentence of five year rigorous imprisonment and
Rs.25,000 fine is preposterously on the higher side not commensurate
with the nature and gravity of the crime committed. The convicting
magistrate’s pontificating view that Salman as a “hero
with a large following” should have exhibited responsible
behaviour and led by example is faulty.
interpreters, law often recognizes also the mitigating circumstances;
and along same principles, must also recognize the aggravating
circumstances to punish the evildoer harshly when such aggravating
circumstances exist. In this case the aggravating circumstances
being the actor’s rich and role model status that requires
him never ever to commit a heinous crime of pushing the endangered
species towards extinction.
believe it was Samuel Johnson who bluntly said, “Show me
the face and I will tell you the law for it” – thereby
emphasising how blind law and its application actually is. Unfortunately
what we enforce today are codified penal laws and not actually
“the rule of law” respected and applied uniformly
for all. Promoting the rule of law needs to be paramount –
irrespective of the fact whether the crime committed is minor
of major. Any violation that spells disrespect for the rule of
law needs to be treated on the same footing, ‘zero tolerance’
being the operative words.
are enacted, made, and are there, to be respected and followed.
They need to be enforced if violated. Punishment for crime cannot
be ignored, merely on grounds that it is minor or otherwise. Uniform
and balanced enforcement helps discipline people, instilling in
them a sense of adherence to follow rules. And thereby help establish
a healthy respect for the rule of law.
18, 2006: 900 words: Copy
Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You
can interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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