You’ll Never Believe What Katrina Had To Say About #SalmanVerdict!

Nothing. But now that we have your attention, here’s what Mohammed Sohail has to say: packing a celebrity off to jail might feel cathartic, but it doesn't absolve us from condemning so many to a life on the streets.

India accounts for about 10 percent of road accident fatalities worldwide. More people die on Indian roads than anywhere else in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the death rate per 100,000 populations for road traffic accident has increased from 16.8 in 2009 to 18.9 in 2013.
Rules are broken and covered up all the time in this country. From the bribe paid to the constable for wrong parking to the extra gas cylinder you try to sneak in to your house, it is safe to say that we Indians don’t rate the law very highly in our everyday lives. In that case, the “honour of the law” is hardly something we are willing to die for, right?


As indifferent as we are to the law, the law is equally indifferent to us. Why do I say that? Well, with more than three crore pending cases, jails teeming with undertrials and immaculate specialist lawyers charging through the roof to push a judgment to the next hearing, India’s legal system is not something that inspires confidence or pride.

Along comes the trial of an influential celebrity and the whole country— sadly including the law itself—loses it. Suddenly, the gravitas and honour of the law comes into question.

But along comes the trial of an influential celebrity and the whole country— sadly including the law itself—loses it. Suddenly, the gravitas and honour of the law comes into question. That traffic violation on the way to work is quickly forgotten as we conveniently take sides with the law now and point fingers at the haughty celebrity. So if the entire nation is focusing its attention on a guy from Bandra driving under the influence of alcohol, why should “the law” not get carried away too?  One honourable judge sends him off to a five-year jail term and gives the lawyers of the celebrity the chore of finding appropriate legal loopholes; another grants him bail in a matter of hours. That’s it. Justice is served. Take it and go. A feather in the cap for our judicial system and food for a month for our news-hungry reporters. But is this all there is to the idea of justice? What message is “the law” sending the victims and their families?

Thirteen years ago a man killed/injured your husband/father, so today I’m sending him to jail for five years. #Justice4All is the trend I set. Of course, whether or not you have employment prospects, or if your children are well educated, or if you still sleep on the pavement, is none of my concern.

 

The point is simple: instead of posing as law-abiding citizens for a day and taking pride in our judicial system, let us, for a change spare a thought for why a man needs to sleep on a pavement in an economy where the cost of the car that runs him over is probably more than the cumulative wealth of the village he hails from. Is it the failure of the celebrity? Of course not—he became a failure the moment he decided to take the wheel after consuming alcohol. Or is it the failure of you and me for being so blind to the fact that a man needs to sleep on the pavement in the financial capital of the country while we all pretend to care.


And, while some celebrate all the upheaval and the resurrection of our legal system and others cash in on all the controversy for their share of momentary fame, it is imperative to note that the Rs 19 lakh compensation for the deceased’s wife and child is yet to reach them.

So now that the judgment is out there and the charges are laid after 13 years of judicial procedure, what is the message that the court is sending out to us? Don’t drink and drive? Drink and drive but don’t run over people? Drink and drive and don’t be a celebrity?

Oh, but sir what about the millions who are forced to sleep on the pavement? Oh, that’s totally justified; where else will they go?

What is the message that the court is sending out to us? Don’t drink and drive? Drink and drive but don’t run over people? Drink and drive and don’t be a celebrity?

But sir, would they need to be urban gypsies if the economy wasn’t so divided? I’m the law. That’s not my concern.

But shouldn’t the endless farmer welfare policies, the countless poverty upliftment laws and the common man’s tax be sufficient to bridge this monetary divide? I don’t get it. What do you mean?

Sir, had you been as stringent in protecting the rights of the poor as you were in convicting a celebrity, maybe Nurullah Mehboob Sharif, who died in the accident, would be alive today. Maybe he’d have saved enough from his meager income to give his son Feroz a proper education and a respectable job.

And before we dwell into that possibility, what about the countless other pavement dwellers who are run over by common people, not celebrities?

So who is to blame here: The drunken celebrity? The pavement dweller? Poverty? Meager value of life? Or the honourable law itself? That is left for you to decide as we wait to find out the fate of the nation’s favourite superstar.

Mohammed Sohail is a student of journalism from Kolkata and runs a city-based youth magazine, 'The Beacon'

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