Daring subversion

How Bitti Mohanty evaded the long arm of the law for seven years by getting himself a new identity reads like the plot of a Hollywood thriller.

Importantly, this ‘thriller’ lays bare the ease with which people from influential families are able to subvert India’s criminal justice system. The son of a DGP in Orissa, Bitti was convicted in 2006 for raping a German girl. The trial was historic for the speed with which it was conducted. Within nine days of the start of the trial Bitti was sentenced to seven years in jail.

What followed, however, underscores that judicial verdicts and punishments do not always result in justice being done as the convict went on to jump parole and ‘disappeared’.  It was evident right from the start that the protective shield provided by the Orissa police on the urging of DGP BB Mohanty had facilitated his son’s ‘disappearance.’ Yet little was done to hunt him down.

In the seven years since, Bitti, although a fugitive from the law, hardly lived the life of a man on the run. He began a new life in Kerala as ‘Raghav Rajan,’ an employee in a nationalised bank. Fake documents certifying his new identity, no doubt procured through his father’s connections, enabled this fugitive to lead a regular life. His arrest in Kannur last week will hopefully see him serving an enhanced sentence in jail.

Bitti’s escape underscores gaping holes in our systems. It lays bare how easy it is to evade the law, simply by getting oneself a new name, even a new history that is established through fake birth certificates and forged college degrees. Bitti even went on to secure his present and future by getting himself a job, driver’s licence, a passport, etc.  Freedom, a life, livelihood and contact with friends and family that were prohibited by law to Bitti for the crime he committed thus became available to ‘Raghav Rajan from Puttaparthi.’

While people in positions of power and influence conspired with Bitti to defeat India’s criminal justice system, the media and importantly, a vigilant citizen acted to ensure that justice would be done. The media’s coverage of Bitti’s great escape hit television screens in the wake of the Delhi gang rape. An alert citizen identified him and made the connection. The Bitti saga is a reminder that it is still possible for an alert citizenry to subvert the plots and machinations of the most powerful in the country.

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