DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Monday, March 21, 2016

A travesty of justice

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The fallen Professor
Recently there has been a travesty of justice. All six accused in Prof. Sabharwal murder case were acquitted by a court in Nagpur the other day for want of adequate evidence. Prof. Sabarwal, head of the department Political Science at Madhav College, Ujjain after fracas with the boys of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthy Parishad in August 2006 was beaten black and blue and eventually he had to be hospitalised. He succumbed to his injuries shortly thereafter. A part of the fracas was even covered by some TV channels. Besides, there were a number of students and employees of the College who had witnessed the sad incident.

Prosecution against the six accused commenced three years later in 2009. As the proceedings dragged on, Prof. Sabharwal's son apprehended miscarriage of justice. Suspecting pressure on the court by ruling party whose students’ wing ABVP was involved, Himanshu, the son of Prof. Sabharwal, successfully moved the Supreme Court for transfer of the case from Ujjain. The Apex court found substance in the plea and transferred the matter to a Nagpur court. That court has now given its judgment ten years after Prof. Sabharwal's murder.

But after protracted trial the court only acquitted all the accused for want of adequate evidence. The prosecuting officer found gaps in investigations and wanted to get the case re-investigated. Somehow that could not be done. He had said all the relevant material that could lead to conviction of the accused were not collected by the investigating agency (presumably under the pressure of the ruling dispensation) While the court and the prosecuting authority were changed the damage done by indifferent investigations could not be undone. The contention of Prof. Sabharwal's son in seeking a change of scene was justified as the pressure of the ruling party was palpable. Unfortunately, however, for want of diligent investigations the accused have been able to get away – literally with murder. Even the Court felt that the accused might have committed the murder but there was not enough evidence.

It is such a sad and depressing travesty of justice. Hopefully the Nagpur court and/or prosecutor will submit a detailed report to the Supreme Court for its notice indicating the flaws in investigations because of which prosecution of the accused did not succeed and everybody's time, including that of the court, were wasted. Perhaps, the higher ups in the Police could also be brought to book for allowing a sloppily investigated case to go to court.

Making a sad and pathetic comment Dr. Sabharwal’s son said that his father died again (on the day the judgment was delivered). From the judge’s comment it was clear how proper investigations were avoided quite clearly under the ruling party’s instructions. Even the Nagpur prosecutor hinted that both the investigating and prosecuting agencies belonged to the state government leaving no one in doubt who the culprit was for protecting the criminals.

Come to think of it, the Professor lost his life over an altercation on the college students' union elections. This can happen to any staff member of a college where elections to students’ union have become such a matter of life and death. Highly politicized, these elections are manipulated by the respective political patrons. Violence during these elections is almost routine. The violence, as that in case of Prof. Sabharwal, is likely to be encouraged by the decision of the Nagpur  court.


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