Salman Khan was convicted and jailed for 5 years as a landmark judgement by a session court judge in Mumbai today. He can, of course, challenge the judgement in High Court. There will also be many other legal solutions in front of Salman Khan before he is actually being put behind the bars. And as everyone can see he is out on bail at present! But there is much to this story that just Salman Khan. He is perhaps the reason why we should talk about the obscurity in our laws and the need to do much better with the lives of our citizens.
Thousands die every day on roads, mostly in hit and run cases, and the killer may or may not be convicted and sentenced to jail. Unfortunately, this is the contemporary status of our world and we must accept it, to alter it.
I was riding my gear-less two wheeler for last 25 km on the heckling streets and highways of Delhi, when I saw a man lying unconscious, near the guardrail dividing the two contiguous sides of opposite flowing traffic. The haggard man with a frowzy appearance was babbling some spittle out when my sight wandered to a small puddle of crimson blood adjacent to his skull. The blood had incarnadined the asphalt road. I could see all this while driving within a few seconds and a few meters away from the crime scene. I could not resist and my hands pull the breaks as a reflexive action. I parked my two wheeler just ahead the body, put off my helmet, took out my gloves, and walked towards the man in hurry. I could only see a couple of other man standing beside me, wistfully looking the man lying unconscious. They asked me to call the police. So, I did call the police without any presumptive thoughts. I described the location to them and asked them to come in hurry. I was literally shouting to them in horror. They seem to understand the panic on the call, but it was a phone call and we needed action. As soon as I ended the call, a couple of minutes had passed and now there were a horde of men and women encircling the unconscious man. Someone had also called the ambulance.
While everyone was waiting for authorities to come out of the sky, one woman was desperately trying to save the man’s life by rubbing his feet and stop the bleeding reach his brain by holding his head as well. Just then, I, along with many other men standing there – almost blocking the traffic, saw a police patrol vehicle a few meters away, coming towards us. Only when it came close to us and was almost passing by pretending to not notice the horde of crowd, we realized it was not meant for us. But you know masses and their deep anchored frustration with system, we blocked the police van and didn’t let it pass us. They had but no choice to come out and look at the situation now. Two policemen swiftly came out, hushed everyone aside, put the body in the backside of the PCR van as if it is a lowly dead body, and swished passed us saying they are taking it to the nearby hospital. They would have put the body on the floor of van if someone had not said from the behind, “put something below him”. Then, they put a sheet of newspaper below his body. Whatever! Speed and time are two most important parameters in such cases, so I won’t argue over how they handled the living but wounded body of a free citizen of India.
As soon as they left, the crowd started to disperse and I also left the place driving back home on my two wheeler which was parked in the middle of the road. My mind wandered to the extreme thoughts in the next few minutes. I was wondering if they were real policemen. I was certain the man would not live because of the huge loss of blood, so my heart cried out for him in the most intense empathetic favors. I was wondering if that metal carpet-less floor of the back side of a van would hurt the man’s skin. Was he a lowly man? Was it because he looked poor? Would it have happened differently if he would have belonged to middle class or a son of rich man? Is this how it happens thousands of times in thousands of Indian cities in one day? I was imagining and my pain was reflecting on the accelerator. I bumped on one speed breaker and my two wheeler lifted itself a few cm to land safely on the asphalt road. And that brought me back on the driving part, thinking about the safety of other men and women around the road. But one thought lingered and now I empathized with the men who might have struck the guy down with his vehicle. Would he be drunk? Or would he simply be in lot of hurry? Was this accident an accident after all? Did someone intentionally killed a man? Phew, I finally reached home!
I instantly looked at my phone while ringing the doorbell. There were a couple of missed calls from different unknown numbers. Since it was weekend and I reached quite late, so I also had to listen to the rebukes of my dad. He was already at home after a packed day-long schedule; means more rebuke. He asked me for multitude of reasons for coming late to home. I told everyone about the incident and they understood it.
The phone rang again and I picked it this time. A policeman was calling from somewhere near the crime scene. He shouted at me in the beginning of the call for not attending his phone call. I said I was driving. Then, he asked me why did I call the police. I narrated him the entire episode in the exact possible way. He asked me more about the PCR in which the victim was carried to the nearby hospital. He also asked me twice if I saw the vehicle which hit the man. I told him again and again about what I saw, but he was more interested in the vehicle – which is pretty understood – that might have hit the man while he was trying to stupidly cross the road in the rush hours. I told him everything and then he asked me to cooperate in the process of investigation. I was happy helping them.
Everything went normal after that and I slept after watching a movie.
I received another call from police station at 3 AM. I was sleeping of course, but then the phone rang again at 3:30 AM and I picked it up slumbering. They said the man about whom I reported last night died in the hospital. I was attentive after that during the whole call. I patiently answered all the questions and assured them of full cooperation. I couldn’t sleep for sometime, but then the eyes went heavy and I slept for rest of the night.
They never called me again. I never inquired about the man again. But such situations leave you with the stark reality of our world and the non digestible value of one human life.
Who is at fault?
I don’t know. Perhaps, the police should have acted faster. Perhaps, the crime scene, which is the utmost proof of crime, should have been cordoned off at the same time and never left untouched and in public proximity as in this case. Perhaps, we need police reforms. Perhaps, we need more coordination between police stations representing different districts and cities. Perhaps, roads should be more safe with proper zebra crossings and foot over bridges to cross busy roads. There will be many solutions and I am sure once this is considered as a major issue in media and by governments or local municipal corporations, our bureaucrats will definitely find best answers to all these questions. Perhaps, we are a developing country and the reality is we do not value a proletarian life as much as they do in developed countries. Perhaps, things will themselves become better in coming years as we would become more developed, more educated, and more enlightened as a society in general.
As in the case of Salman Khan, it is only one of the thousands of such cases in our courts and many other thousands of accidents which never get converted into FIRs and then, court cases. He has been sentenced 5 years in jail for mistakenly killing a man, handicapping another individual and injuring one more. If everything goes well, he will find a way to parry this judgement. If by chance he goes to jail, I am pretty sure he will be pardoned within 2 to 3 years of his time in jail. He will come out of jail a victorious and law abiding man, will make many movies in next few years and earn crores out of them. He will of course donate a few lakhs to keep his image as he has been doing for past 10 years as a penance to his crime or as a rare heart change after the court case.
Also, there are many questions over the disappearances of the prime witness in this case. The man died a callous death in 2007 because of tuberculosis, but he never stopped saying that it was Salman Khan who drove over the poor people that night and he was also drunk. We don’t know what really caused his death, but it is quite conclusive that Salman Khan and company did try to turn him, though he didn’t turn.
Tell me, o reader! Let you be the judge of this case. If an individual mistakenly kills a man, and is forced to spend 2-3 years in jail for his crime out of the 70-100 years in his lifetime, is this anyhow wrong to maintain the law and order situation in a country?
I believe you will decide in the greater good of a civilization and consider it a no big deal if Salman Khan spends a couple of years in jail and give a slamming response to all the supporters of Salman Khan who have forgotten that a man lost his life to hands of Salman Khan and he deserves the minor punishment.
I would also use this space to say that the culprit in all such cases should always be punished with a minimum of 2 years jail term. This judgement is a good step in the right direction and I cannot condemn it like a few pseudo-intellectuals out there.
One more thing, I simply hope you think this case has nothing to do with the religion of Salman Khan. Because if you do, you suffer from a chronic disorder and nobody can solve your problem.
I am not making fun of anything here. I said so because I know some people who think this way.