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Justice delayed is often justice undone

The deposition of senior IPS officer Anju Gupta highlighting the role of BJP leader L K Advani during the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, can be interpreted as a clear pointer to his involvement, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2011 15:03 IST

The deposition of senior IPS officer Anju Gupta highlighting the role of BJP leader L.K. Advani during the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, can be interpreted as a clear pointer to his involvement. But it is not sufficient to hold him guilty. The conclusion establishing either guilt or innocence can only be pronounced by the relevant court after all the depositions are completed. So, it is premature to comment on the final outcome of the case which is an example of the slow pace at which justice is delivered in our country.

It is not the Ayodhya case alone but several other landmark cases where the law has taken more time than necessary without reaching any conclusion. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases are pending in the courts and there is nothing to suggest that the guilty will be punished any time soon. Similarly, in the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim riots, the judiciary is taking its time to come to a judgement. On the whole, the state of our judiciary needs to be examined so that courts do not sit on cases.
The problem with cases like Ayodhya, the 1984 riots and the 2002 killings is that a perception has been created about the involvement of certain individuals in the crime. It is difficult to convince people who have prejudged the issues on the merits of the law. In a way, the media have helped to strengthen these perceptions and it is, therefore, not easy for any court to come to a judgement that is different from the commonly held view.

It is in this context that it becomes important for the media to understand that it should not interfere in the process of justice by pronouncing people guilty before they are actually given such a verdict by a proper court of law which alone is empowered to pass the final judgement. Interference by the media does impact the progress of the case and it is not in the interest of justice. Anju Gupta’s deposition is just one of the many statements before the court. To reach any conclusion on its basis is premature. There are many dimensions to the Babri Masjid demolition case.

It is true that the BJP leaders and those from the VHP were present there. But it has also to be ascertained whether the central government then headed by P.V. Narasimha Rao did enough to prevent the demolitions despite being warned of the threat well in advance. In fact, Rao had been cautioned by his Cabinet colleague M.L. Fotedar but somehow did not take adequate measures to prevent the disputed structure from coming down.

The overall case will, of course, take these points into account. The Ayodhya case has been allowed to drag on because of non-cooperation from many quarters as well as the lack of will of the state to prosecute the guilty. The same will is lacking in the Gujarat case as also in that of 1984. These cases have political dimensions and each player wants to obviously extract as much as possible. There are vested interests which have been formed and do not allow matters to move forward. Each time such a case comes up in public purview, someone seems to benefit.

In the latest instance, the Hindutva forces must be pleased with so much focus on the deposition of Anju Gupta. The issue has come alive once again. The point is that, on the whole, the judiciary must act fast. Because justice delayed is justice undone. But it certainly does not mean that a trial by perception should be allowed to succeed whether in cases with political dimensions or those that have social ramifications. The truth is a combination of many facts. This must be clearly understood. The judiciary as a whole must pull up its socks and not behave like other organs of our system.