Justice, but what took the court 20 years?

Justice, but what took the court 20 years?

The award of a five-year jail term for superstar Salman Khan for shooting blackbucks in a Rajasthan village in 1998 is vindication of the ideal that the law is above  you, however high you are. Unfortunately, it is not a norm that is always followed but an ideal that often fails in practice. That is why on the rare occasions when the high and mighty are made to pay for their excesses and infractions, there is a sense that all hope for the rule of law and justice is not lost. The actor has got some relief in the form of bail but the threat of jail stands. He is certain to appeal the judgement in higher courts as he did after convictions in two other cases in the past. One of the two cases was again a case of poaching chinkaras in Rajasthan and the other was a more serious 2002 hit-and-run case in Mumbai in which one person was killed and four others injured.  

He was acquitted in both cases by the Rajasthan and Bombay high courts. The Supreme Court is yet to pronounce the final view in the hit-and-run case. But the public perception is that he was actually guilty in both cases and got away because he was influential and had the resources to prevail over the justice system. If a person violated the law again and again and managed to escape punishment every time, the system of justice would be exposed as faulty and deficient. It is already suffering an erosion of credibility in many ways. The argument that the five-year jail term is disproportionate to the crime is misconceived. He has only been given a punishment prescribed by the law, and actually less than the maximum punishment. Another argument that Salman is a good human being who does a lot of charitable work and therefore deserves leniency is also unacceptable, especially because he is a repeat offender. Yet another  consideration that hundreds of crores of rupees ride on him is not even worthy of mention.    

The fact that it took 20 years for a ruling to be given and the possibility that it might yet take some years for a final decision to be made would detract from the sense of victory of justice. It is probably the commitment and resolve of the local Bishnoi community that ensured that  the case did not fall through, and it is for the prosecution to ensure that it does not fail in the higher courts. The case has also helped to highlight the importance of wildlife, and this is welcome.  

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