- kewal sethi
fighting the celebrity
fighting the celebrity
india worships the celebrities. the celebrity possesses all the virtues and does not have a single fault. even when the fault stares you in the eye, we refuse to see them.
k p s gill
one such celebrity was kps gill. he was reputed to have solved the terrorist problem in panjab. his predecessor with his theory of 'bullet for bullet' initiated the process which kps gill carried to the hilt. afterwards many allegations of missing persons were made and some officers - junior officers - were punished also but kps gill continued to have a halo. he could not make any mistake or misbehave.
one such case was that of ms bajaj. kps gill was a drunkard but this was never the fault seen by others. in one evening, party, he slapped ms bajaj, a senior ias officer, on the bottom and misbehaved. it was in the presence of many other dignitaries. none of them saw anything adverse in this because kps gill was a hero. but ms bajaj lodges a complaint. she approached the chief secretary. his only response was, "you are lucky. it could have been worse". she also told roberio, predecessor of kps gill, and now advisor to governor, about the incident and roberio promised to send a report which he did but the report was not shared with ms bajaj.
ms bajaj tried to meet the governor but his secretary informed her that governor had seen the report sent by roberio and has already censored gill for his conduct. governor had also told gill not to attend any party after 8:30. beyond this – nothing.
ms bajaj approached secretary to prime minister but to no avail.
it is noteworthy that journalists were present at the party but chose not to report it against the celebrity. but a mumbai based newspaper broke the story.
not expecting any redress from the higher officers, eleven days after the incident, ms bajaj approached the inspector general of police, chandigarh. he registered her complaint, gave a receipt. he kept the complaint in a sealed cover and told her that his duty was only to register the complaint and it was up to him to do or not to do anything about it.
months passed but no action from the police. no witnesses would come up against the celebrity. they were aware of his extra-legal activities against terrorists.
ms bajaj the approached chief judicial magistrate. this was four months after the incident. the magistrate called for the report of roberio but the government of panjab refused it on the ground that this will hamper the working of the officers who will be hesitant to record their views. magistrate rejected this claim on which the government went in appeal to high court but the high court accepted the claim and was also of the opinion that advice given to the ministers or governor cannot be disclosed.
in the meantime, gill approached the high court to quash the complaint. it was said that ms bajaj had voluntarily come to be near him and even if something happened it was so slight as not to be taken note of. high court accepted this plea. the high court also said that there was delay of eleven days in reporting to chief secretary and four months in filing a complaint with magistrate which were fatal to the case.
shortly afterwards kps gill was given padma shri award.
ms bajaj then approached supreme court against both the decisions of high court. it took supreme court six years to quash the high court orders. even at this stage the suggestion was made to supreme court that matter could be solved by gill expressing regret for his conduct. this was not acceptale to ms bajaj. the case reverted to the magistrate.
nearly eight years after the incident, came magistrate's decision. gill was so confident that a police band was at hand to celebrate his victory (sic). but the magistrate thought otherwise and sentenced gill to three months' rigorous imprisonment on one count and two months on the other. a fine of rs. 700 was also imposed.
newspapers reacted predictably. a celebrity is a celebrity. most of comments were against ms. bajaj. indian express said, " anybody who is aware of gill's role in ending secessionism in panjab cannot be happy about gill's misfortune". deccan herald had similar opinion. tavleen singh observed that it was obscene to take such a trivial case to supreme court.
gill appealed against the decision to sessions judge but was unsuccessful in getting conviction set aside. the session judge, however, said that gill be on probation and need not go to jail provided he abstains from alcohol in public places for a period of three years. he also ordered for payment of rs. 2,50,000 to ms bajaj.
both parties went to the high court. the conviction was maintained but gill would continue to be on probation. other conditions were dropped.
both parties went to supreme court. seventeen years after the supreme court maintained high court orders. conviction was maintained but gill would not go to jail.
it shows how he entire government machinery worked hard to save gill and condemn one of its own officers whose modesty had been outraged just because the culprit was a celebrity. all the kudos to ms. bajaj for not giving up the struggle which anyone in her position would do considering the futility of the great notion often propagated "all are equal before the law".
salman khan and hit and run case
in 2002, salman khan's car ran over persons sleeping on the pavement killing one and injuring four. he fled the spot. the victims were under the car and it had to be lifted by crane to get the victims out. besides salman khan, his friend kamaal khan and a policeman on protection duty ravindra patil, and the driver were in the car.
ravindar patil testified that salman khan was heavily drunk and was driving the car. It was patil who lodged a fir against khan, and in his statement to the earlier court which heard the case, said he had warned the actor to drive slowly since he was in an inebriated condition. however, khan did not heed the warning, patil had said. patil was reportedly under enormous pressure to change his statement against the actor and even went missing during the trial. he had reportedly gone into hiding in order to avoid Khan's lawyers and also alleged harassment from within the police force.
ironically, patil was arrested in 2006 for failing to appear as a witness and in november that year he was sacked from the force. less than a year later, in august 2007, patil was found on the streets near sewri and admitted to hospital where he died in october. he had been suffering from tuberculosis for two years, and his family had abandoned him. it was reported that patil had told a friend two days before his death that he was saddened by the treatment he had been subjected to. “i stood by my statement till the end, but my department did not stand by me. i want my job back, i want to survive. i want to meet the police commissioner once.”
this was one of the most deplorable facets of the case against the celebrity. the brass of police force was out to help the celebrity even by persecuting their own personnel. they should have resisted the pressure by the celebrity but, instead, hounded him.
the case was heard by the metropolitan magistrate in 2006, four years after the crime. he came to conclusion that the case was more serious than made out and that sessions court should try it. this was in 2012. ten years had already elapsed. someone had tried to help the celebrity by watering down the crime for a lesser punishment but the magistrate did not agree.
in 2015, sessions judge held salman to be guilty and sentenced him to five years rigorous imprisonment.
normally he should have been immediately taken to jail but the celebrity was not. within hours, the high court heard his lawyers and gave him two days interim bail. it is needless to say; regular bail was granted soon after. celebrities do need special consideration though, before the law, all are said to be equal.
it is noteworthy that in 2014, high court had ordered that no tv channel will broadcast anything about the hit and run case. after all a celebrity was involved.
another twist was that the police claimed during the trial that the case diary regarding the case was lost and 55 of the 63 documents were missing. clearly a bid to help the celebrity.
another dramatic twist came when salman claimed that he was not driving and one ashok singh was driving the car.
in 2016, the verdict of high court came. it did not believe that ashok singh was driving the car but, nevertehless, acquitted salman khan disblieving all the evidence adduced before the sessions judge.
following a hue and cry by the public, government of maharashtra filed an appeal before the supreme court. it was relieved when the appeal was admitted. the supreme court in their turn, refused to fast track the appeal.
this was the last heard of the appeal. six year have passed since the appeal was filed and twenty years since the hit and run case. the court is busy with granting protection to other celibrities, bail to setalvad and house arrest to navlakha. there is no time to come to a decision regarding the celebrity who is accused of hit and run which resulted in death of one and injury to four. after all the victims were those who had to sleep on the pavement and were not officers of state like ms bajaj so there is no need to hurry.
twenty years and the decision is no where in sight.
this wasn't just another murder trial. history was created at every step of the tortuous legal drama unfolded before a spellbound nation over the past 44 months. while the indira gandhi assassination case was a life and death matter for the three accused satwant singh, kehar singh and balbir singh (the fourth beant singh having died), its political, international and legal ramifications were awesome. this was no crime of personal enmity but the pre-meditated assassination of a world leader for political reasons.
there were four persons who were charged with the assassination of indira gandhi. these were satwant singh, balbir singh, kehar singh, beant singh.
here is the prosecution story.
satwant singh was arrested on 15nov.84 at red fort where he had been taken after his discharge from the hospital in early hours of the same day. the chief justice and the judges of the delhi high court on a request made by delhi administration decided to depute and designate shri s.l. khanna, additional chief metropolitan magistrate, tis hazari to deal with the remand matter of satwant singh in red fort, delhi.
kehar singh, who was the uncle (phoopha) of beant singh working as an assistant in the office of the director general of supplies & disposals was claimed to have been arrested on 30nov.84.
balbir singh, a sub-inspector posted for security duty at mrs. gandhi’s office is said to have been arrested on 3dec 1984. it is said that certain incriminating material was found on his person when searched at the time of his arrest.
beant singh had died as a result of injuries sustained by him at the time of assassination.
accused kehar singh, alleged to be a religious fanatic, after the ‘bluestar operation’ converted beant singh and through him satwant singh to religious bigotry and made them undergo ‘amrit chhakna ceremony’ on 14oct 1984 and 24oct 1984 respectively at gurudwara sector v1, r.k. puram, new delhi. he also took beant singh to golden temple on 29oct 1984 where satwant singh was to join them as part of the mission.
since the ‘bluestar operation’ balbir singh was planning to commit the murder of smt. indira gandhi and discussed his plans with beant singh, who had similar plans to commit the offence. balbir singh also shared his intention and prompted satwant singh to commit the murder of smt. indira gandhi and finally discussed this matter with him on 30th october, 1984.
in the first week of september, 1984, when a falcon (baaz) happened to sit on a tree near the main reception of pm’s house, at about 1.30 p.m. balbir singh spotted the falcon, called beant singh there and pointed out the falcon. both of them agreed that it had brought the message of the tenth guru of the sikhs and that they should do something by way of revenge of the ‘bluestar oeration’. both of the above accused performed ardas then and there.
it was a legal marathon though it seemed like an open-and-shut case, unprecedented arguments and procedures used where necessary. in all 73 witnesses deposed for the prosecution during the 110 hearings spread over 247 days. the defence could only muster three witnesses.
during the actual trial by the session judge chandra, all the high drama was packed into a tiny office room - specially designated a court for this highest-security trial - adjoining the tihar central jail, almost too small for so much history and histrionics. the metal detectors, bullet proof glass and sten guns followed the case even into the appeal through and supreme courts - up to last fortnight when the apex court delivered a judgement that was no less sensational than anything preceding.
this note is about balbir singh. it was alleged that he was a co-conspirator with beant singh and his uncle kehar singh. while the case against kehar singh was that he was uncle of beant singh and instigated him for the crime. he had gone along with beant singh to amritsar where they separated from their wives and conspired. even at home kehar sing used to talk about revenge for the blue star operation. balbir singh was posted for prime minister security and was friendly with beant singh. they often talked to each other.
the prosecution said that a note was found with balbir singh when he was arrested on december 3 by chief investigating officer rajinder prakash kochar. asked the defence pleader, "is it logical for a police officer who knows he is a suspect to carry around such a damning piece of paper which is as good as a death warrant?" but chandra maintained: "a lot of people get caught because they think they are very smart."
the three were found to be guilty and were sentenced to death. they appealed to the high court but the high court concurred with the finding of the trial judge and maintained the death sentence of all the three.
the supreme court upheld kehar's conviction on the basis of beant's wife's testimony that the two disappeared together in amritsar a few days before the crime and used to whisper about something even at home. kehar, beant's uncle, also encouraged him to take amrit in a dedication ceremony.
the three-judge bench unanimously reversed the conviction of balbir singh for conspiring with beant singh, the assassin who had been shot dead by other guards on the spot. but the supreme court accepted balbir's claim that he was picked up the day after the murder and framed after being illegally detained for 33 days. the prosecution's story that he was picked up from a bus stop crumbled under questioning by the court. with it went the crucial evidence: a paper supposedly found in his pocket with cryptic dates, names and notes like 'felt like killing'.
the supreme court called it "an insult to the understanding, if not the intelligence, of the police force" to think a police officer would carry such a document a month after committing a crime. the judgement put the trial and high court verdicts under a cloud. both had accepted the prosecution's legally weak story of balbir singh. was their judgement not an insult to the intelligence of the judges , even at high court level, to believe such a story (one of the judges of high court who upheld the conviction of balbir singh, later went on to become chief justice of india).
"it would have been awkward for the judge to convict me if the trial was held in public gaze," said balbir.
though the state decided to seek a review of balbir's acquittal, the verdict so completely cleared him that he was out of the woods.
balbir singh's wife. devender kaur, 36, who has been staying with her husband's brother since they were turned out of the official accommodation in the police lines, cradled her two-year-old daughter and said: "we didn't expect this at all. my husband is absolutely innocent. how can they call him a kattar sikh when the fact is that he has never even been to amritsar. they say he was very upset after operation bluestar but do you know that he used to play badminton with rajiv gandhi's children even after that?"
but when the assassinated one was prime minister, such evidence does not count.