JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED
Failure to punish guilty a 'crime' law commits
By Amba Charan Vashishth
In the legal history of India it was a great news for many from many angles.
According to the prosecution, Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel had come to village Hashimpura in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut district on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims from a congregation of 500 that had gathered outside a mosque. 42 of them were found to be murdered.
What matters is not which community the victims belonged but the most significant is the fact that they were all human beings. And killing of any person of any caste, creed, sex or region is — and must be — universally and unanimously condemned.
It is said that "Justice delayed is Justice denied". This saying applies most appropriately to this case.
"The court has given benefit of doubt to the accused regarding their identification", the special prosecutor explained, "and not regarding the incident". "The fact that the court referred the case to Delhi Legal Service Authority for rehabilitation of the victims", the prosecutor stressed, "shows that the incident is not in doubt."
After 28 long years, though accused were acquitted and a ray of smile appeared on their face, yet they have suffered a trauma for that long which is more or less the total length of service a public servant renders on duty normally. They could get no promotion which they would otherwise have earned in the normal course.
"I am satisfied that justice is finally done", said the 59-year-old Niranjan, one of the persons acquitted. "We faced the trial for last 28 years. During this period I failed to do anything for my family and children. I was a head constable at the time of the alleged incident and I am going to retire soon and I am still a head constable."
To the greatly disappointed families of the victims the acquittals were "unfortunate" and "denial of justice". But Babuddin, one of the survivors and eyewitnesses to the incident, regretted — and explained — that he could not recognize the PAC personnel in court as they were wearing helmets as two decades had passed since the carnage.
Both the prosecution and the defence agree that the gruesome murders did take place. The accused earned the "benefit of doubt". In a way disappointment of the bereaved families is as much justified as is the elation of the acquitted accused though for totally opposite reasons. But the villain is the system of criminal jurisprudence we follow, its shortcomings and weaknesses.
If the accused were not guilty, who else was? Whose duty it is to find the real culprits? The law has no answer. And this is the impotence of the system of law we follow. It amounts to commission of another crime in the shape of denial of justice to the victims and their families and punishment to the guilty. ***
The writer is a Delhi based political analyst. e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org