Inordinate delay

The framing of charges against superstar and celebrity Salman Khan by a Mumbai court in a hit-and-run case in which one person was killed and four others were injured has both a negative and a positive side. It has taken about 11 years for the preliminary process of law to finally catch up with him. The incident happened in September 2002  and  though a case was registered then, it has taken an inordinately long time to frame the charges. Salman Khan has used all means in the law to delay the process. It is the right of every person to defend himself against a charge but the delay becomes too stark and indefensible when the facts of the case are clear and the lag is too long even by the standards of the country’s slow-moving judicial process. In the normal course, the trial, conviction and even the punishment should have been over by now.

While this is a matter of concern, the bright side is that finally the charges have been formally framed. The charge is for culpable homicide not amounting to murder which invites a punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment if it is proved. Earlier he was sought to be tried under lesser sections of law which provided for a punishment of a maximum two years in jail. He also faces a number of other charges under the IPC, the Motor Vehicles Act and the Bombay Prohibition Act. It can be said that the celebrity status did not lead to the framing of a light case against the star. In the case of Sanjay Dutt also, after some uncertainties and misgivings, the law had finally prevailed.

Hit-and-run incidents and other road offences are often given low priority by law enforcement authorities, though these are relatively simple cases to pursue. This is especially so when VIPs are the offenders. There are many other high-profile hit-and-run cases which have lingered on for long periods. Many cases have also suffered because of lack of timely action. More often than not, in such cases the offenders are well-connected and influential and the victims are ordinary people.  But the law should be equal and fair to all. The pavement-dwellers who were the victims in the Salman Khan case have been waiting for justice all these years.

Comments (+)