The pace may be painfully slow, but the message is clear. Political power and patronage no longer puts you above the law. This was once again underscored when a special CBI court sentenced the much-feared former Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Pappu Yadav to life imprisonment for his role in the killing of a political rival, Ajit Sarkar. His pleas for mercy were not entertained by the court which advised him to move a higher court. While it would be premature to say ‘how have the mighty fallen’, the proactive role played by the courts in recent times has seen some of the biggest history-sheeters in public life brought to justice.
Former Congress strongman Romesh Sharma has been convicted of murder.
Siwan MP Mohammed Shahabuddin, who thought nothing of openly vowing to murder a top police official, is now cooling his heels with a life sentence in Siwan jail. Bihar MP Anand Mohan, once again a larger-than-life figure, faces a death sentence for his part in lynching a district magistrate. The list goes on. The signals being sent out are clear and this is something which should not be lost on the likes of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. However long it takes, the law is bound to catch up with you. For too long have many of our political worthies considered themselves above the law. In fact, it was no less than Union Railway Minister Lalu Yadav who once said that the only court in which he could be tried was the people’s court. Now Lalu’s words have a prophetic ring to them. While the courts are going strictly by the letter and spirit of the law, the aam janata whom politicians were once able to control and manipulate have become less accommodating and tolerant of their shenanigans. The days of both patronising and terrorising captive vote-banks are numbered. While we still have a long way to go, people are beginning to ask uncomfortable questions and are refusing to be taken for granted. With tools like the Right to Information Act, people have realised that they can call their elected representatives into account. Determined citizens are also not averse to seeking judicial help when they feel cheated or let down by politicians. The earlier practice of contesting elections while in jail has also ended with the Supreme Court’s 2005 verdict prohibiting those convicted from standing for office.
Rulings like the one in the Pappu Yadav case go a long way in restoring the confidence of the common man in our democratic system. It is this that has given ordinary people like Bilkis Bano the courage to soldier on till justice, howsoever delayed, is finally done.