Travesty of justice


The acquittal of six activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) by a Nagpur court in the Prof H S Sabharwal murder case shows how justice can be subverted even in open-and-shut cases. Prof Sabharwal, a professor in a college in Ujjain, was killed by ABVP activists in 2006 in front of a crowd after a dispute over union elections. There were eye witnesses and circumstantial evidence and the motives were clear. And yet the case was lost as, according to the judge, the prosecution miserably failed to prove the case against the accused. The judge in fact felt that the six accused had committed the crime but he was helpless as the evidence presented before the court did not support the case, but was probably tailored to undermine it.

The judge’s comments indict the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh which had from the beginning tried to protect the accused. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has welcomed their acquittal. It was because there were doubts about a fair trial in Madhya Pradesh that the case was transferred by the Supreme Court to a court in Nagpur. But it seems the state government and the powers behind the accused were bent on subverting the case. Most of the witnesses changed their statements. The professor’s peon who had named and identified the accused retracted his statement. He has admitted that he was intimidated to change his deposition. Even policemen changed their statements and this could have been only under official pressure. The investigation in the case was faulty as the police were hamstrung. The chief minister had already said in public that the death was accidental. The Supreme Court had once taken serious note of witnesses turning hostile under pressure and lying on oath. There are too many of such incidents that have recently come to light. One case was reported two days ago from Kerala in which a mother and father turned hostile in a case in which CPM activists attacked and maimed their daughter. Exerting pressure on witnesses amounts to interference in the course of justice and is particularly bad when governments resort to it.

Sabharwal’s son, who has actively pursued the case, hopes to get justice in the Supreme Court. Cases like the Best Bakery case in Gujarat in which the state government shielded the guilty finally found justice when they were taken to the Supreme Court. Sabharwal case is no different.

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