Have convictions in the high-profile Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo cases this year given the Delhiites more confidence to stand up for justice? According to the Cfore opinion poll, 36 per cent of those interviewed in Delhi said they would stand witness in court if present at the scene of crime, while 38 per cent said they would do so in accident cases.
The Hindustan Times sought response to these results from some of the prominent Delhiites involved in legal battles. While socialite Bina Ramani, who turned out to be the ‘star witness’ in the Jessica Lall case, said “it is a heartbreak to know that only such a small section is willing to stand up,” others like Neelam Katara, whose son Nitish Katara was killed in 2002, think it is a good sign as a “couple of months ago we did not know whether even these many would have had the will to depose.”
Surprisingly, even in Patna more people are willing to stand up against a wrong. Against 36 per cent Delhiites, 42 per cent in Mumbai and Patna said they would stand witness in court. In Kolkata, however, only 34 per cent of the respondents said they were willing to depose in court, while in Chennai only 26 per cent said so.
Eleven per cent of those interviewed in Delhi said they would not stand witness even if they were a witness to a crime. In Mumbai, 17 per cent said they would not depose in court while in Chennai 18 per cent said so.
“The truth is that nobody wants to stick his/her neck out. Unless it is a member of the family or a really close friend who is determined and has got nerves of steel, no one comes forward. Even in cases of accident, people are not willing to help out. They just stand watch,” said Sabrina Lall, who led the fight to bring the guilty to book in her sister Jessica’s murder case. “It’s a different thing to say that you would help but actually not many do so,” she added.
Sabrina may sound cynical, but she welcomed the survey results. “It’s a good thing that these many people are willing to depose,” she said.
Ramani, however, said she was disappointed with the results. “Everyone and anyone who is witness to a crime should depose. How can people who are witness to a crime say no and live with it all their lives? Why are they being so dishonest?” Ramani asked.
Maybe because of potential harassment. After all, 15 per cent respondents in Delhi said that they would avoid deposing in court because of potential harassment. To this Ramani said, “I was put in jail for telling the truth. I have been through the worst kind of harassment. But I thank the judiciary who watched what was going on and did a lot. The police have to be answerable for their acts.”
Katara, on the other hand, finds the results encouraging. The situation, according to her, has changed as people have seen how their deposition can change the course of a case. “Justice should be delivered quickly. We need to have laws that protect those who depose,” Katara added.