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Sentence construction

It?s nobody?s case that Salman, slayer of an endangered species of deer, is simply rapped on the knuckles and let off.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2006 00:11 IST

It’s nobody’s case that Salman Khan, slayer of an endangered species of deer, is simply rapped on the knuckles and let off. There is a law that deals with such violations and the Wildlife Protection Act is as serious as anything else in the statute books. But one is left rather puzzled by the sentence the court handed down to the actor — five years’ rigorous imprisonment. Punishments for breaking laws in any society are not absolutes; they are relative to the gravity of the crimes committed.

Judging one crime to be graver than another, of course, depends on how serious society and the law considers it to be. So murder and other ‘heinous crimes’ require more stringent punishments than, say, breaking a traffic rule. Unfortunately, such an incremental model of punishment seems to exist only in theory. There have been cases — too many, in fact — of murderers, rapists and their ilk walking away either because there is ‘not enough evidence’ or because of a general apathy or a combination of both. While this may have little bearing into the established ‘hierarchy of punishments’, it does seem rather strange to find certain kinds of crime, such as those committed against wildlife, elicit a bigger rap than the countless other cases that deserve at least a sentence, if not a stiffer one.

Once again, it must be stated that we are not voicing our reservations against the judgment meted out to Mr Khan. Our concern is about the parity of justice. Perceptions about how laws deal with lawbreakers are as important as the law themselves. If there is growing cynicism about our justice system, it is not only because the guilty are not being punished according to the law, but because only some kinds of guilty receive their just deserts.