Broken wheels of justice

The rusty wheels of our legal system plod slowly, for years on end, compounding our misery.

Time: 1800 hours. Date: December 22, 2011. My driver told me that a policeman had come to deliver summons to me. I asked him to escort the policeman to my home office. He confirmed my identity and showed me the summons dated October 22, 2011. 

The language was Marathi but I could read that summons had my name written on it. I signed the receipt and rushed to my Maharashtrian neighbour to translate the contents of four line summons.

This is what the summons said: That I had to appear before the magistrate in Ahmednagar and that I had been charged for cheating under section 420 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It was too late to seek any legal help and I had just the following day to do something about it because it was Christmas weekend before the day of appearance. I was in a tizzy and went rushing to a lawyer first thing in the morning to be told that I was charged with a serious offence which could lead to arrest. 

His advice was that I should immediately seek legal help in Ahmednagar, a place I have never visited in my life, and arrange two sureties to seek bail. When asked why I was given one day to appear when it took police two months to serve the notice, he told me to get real and know how our systems works. And advised me stay away from my home lest someone comes to arrest me, an advice I chose to ignore. 

Panic was mounting by the hour. I rushed my friends to Ahmednagar to arrange a lawyer and sureties, sent a scanned wakaltnama by mail for the lawyer, only to be told by my friends that they had informally learnt that there would be no hearing on the appointed day because the magistrate was on leave and therefore I could cancel my bookings for the travel.

The next hearing, I was told, would be January 9 that was not too far away. I used this time to make inquiries about what crime I had committed to be charged with an offence under section 420 in jurisdiction of a city I had never visited and there were no quick answers. My pulse rate was mounting by the day and slowly these facts came out. That I was not alone and there were many former colleagues of mine, who had served on the board of a company a quarter century back.

An organisation from Ahmednagar had placed an order for some equipment on the company I was a director of and had failed to pay up the dues. A civil case was filed against the owner for default of payment which was won by the company in various courts. To evade the payment, the owner decided to file a criminal case of cheating for supplying sub-standard equipment.

Cut to the present: Dates after dates, appearances after appearances by the lawyer, the broken wheels of justice grind on. What was misery then may result in rum and coke visit to a pub if this piece is published.Breaking news: Case settled out of court.

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