In the notorious hawala case that involved the high and mighty of the land not so long ago, the Supreme Court remarked, “Be you ever so high, the law is above you.” Today we see stark testimony to that statement with the Patna trial court sentencing to death a former MP, Anand Mohan, and former MLAs, Ashlaq Ahmed and Arun Kumar Sinha, for inciting a mob to lynch district magistrate G. Krishnaiah in 1994. Mohan’s wife, Lovely, has been given life imprisonment. Yes, this is a case of justice delayed, but certainly not denied. The significance of the sentence lies in that we have now got used to powerful politicians getting away literally with murder. Mohan was so contemptuous of the law and so certain he would not pay for his actions when he asked a criminal in full view of the marauding mob to shoot the DM.
The verdict sends out a clear signal to others like Mohan who have taken the law for granted. Habitual offender and MP from Siwan Mohammed Shahabuddin actually declared in full public view that he would make the police officer who dared to arrest him pay after retirement. It is another matter that the officer concerned, D.N. Ojha, refused to be cowed down by Shahabuddin’s threats and went ahead with throwing him behind bars. Given the criminal-politician nexus, however, few would display the courage Ojha did. Politicians are known to use the police and law-enforcement agencies to carry out their nefarious work only to turn on them when an officer refuses to tow the line. Of course, Mohan carried things too far. The usual punishment is a transfer or demotion.
The Patna judgment will also restore people’s faith in the law. Influential politicians like JD-U MP Prabhunath Singh, LJP MP Surajbhan Singh, the RJD’s Pappu Yadav and, of course, Shahabuddin will now be less confident that they can cool their heels for a while and then get back to business as usual. Others like J. Jayalalithaa, former PM Narasimha Rao and the late Union minister Buta Singh, to name just a few, have been luckier at having got off the hook in the corruption cases they faced. The courts also have taken courage from the fact that public is no longer willing to tolerate any subversion of justice by the powerful as we have seen in the Jessica Lall, Priyadarshini Mattoo and Sanjay Dutt cases. Mohan’s conviction also means a breather for the people of Bihar, who have had to live in terror of so-called elected representatives like this. We can only hope that next time around, the law will move faster.