Pub attack: travesty of justice

Pub attack: travesty of justice

Pub attack: travesty of justice

Judicial delays are common in our system of justice. Acquittal of accused persons for want of available and acceptable evidence is also not uncommon. But acquittal of the accused even when there is strong and clear evidence against them, and supporting circumstances to strengthen the charges, is not so common. But that is what happened in the case of the 2009 attack on men and women at a pub in Mangaluru. After nine years, all the 25 Sri Rama Sene activists who were charged with the attack have been acquitted by a court in Mangaluru. The horrendous assault did occur, everybody saw it on television, everyone also saw who the goons were, but now no one is guilty of the attack, because two of the accused have died and three have left the country. The attack on the pub was perhaps the first well-publicised act of moral policing of that kind in the country. In fact, the attackers themselves were said to have called in the television channels to record their deed. After the assault, the goons even declared in public that it was done to punish women who had gone to the pub to drink.  

The accused have been let off for "want of evidence". But the evidence did not perhaps get presented in the court, or whatever was presented was not accepted by it. There were video recordings of the attack which were telecast on TV channels and went viral on social media. The faces of the attackers were visible in the shots. They had boasted of their action and their leader, Pramod Muthalik, had admitted their role and later even apologised for it, though he still maintained that their intentions were good. There were many witnesses, including the pub staff, and the victims of the attack. Despite all this, the police failed to establish the case and prove the guilt of the accused. The police had taken one year to file the charge sheet in the case even though it had all the evidence. The wholesale acquittal is a travesty of justice. It has come about because the case was not investigated and prosecuted properly, or the court failed to appreciate the evidence before it. The government should appeal the judgement in the high court to ensure that the guilty do not go scot-free.  

Ensuring justice in the case is especially important because the vigilantism that was seen in the pub attack has spread far and wide now and is targeting every aspect of people's lives, like food habits, dress and hair styles. What came under attack in the pub was the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of citizens, both men and women, to eat and drink whatever they wanted in privacy or at a place where it is legally permissible. Failure to bring the attackers to justice and to punish them will only encourage them and their ilk.  

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