The Pursuits of Law
At twenty-nine, I am well past the age to be appearing in exams; yet, that is precisely what I was doing for most of this past month. Come to think of it, I am not surprised. After all, there are only two things that can happen when you’re being tried on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder (in legalese, Section 120-B read with Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code): one, you end up spending your life locked up in a central jail (in which case, the best one can hope for is to pen a bestseller à la the ex-convict, Gregory David Robert’s Shantaram); or two, you become a lawyer. In my case, I am hoping it will be the latter. I’m told I won’t be the first: the late Mr. Dabir, noted criminal lawyer and longtime president of the Madhya Pradesh Bar Council, catapulted to the top of his profession after he was acquitted of the charge of murdering his wife. Post-acquittal, he took out an advertisement in the local papers, audaciously declaring, “if you’ve killed someone, come to me for acquittal.”
Now that my exams are ended, I can focus on the Final Arguments of my trial, due to commence on the 1st of May. The Supreme Court has directed the Sessions Court to pronounce judgment before the end of next month. The evidence, comprising about two hundred witnesses and running into thousands of pages, is copious: it has to be scrutinized with a toothcomb. This is precisely what we- my counsel, Mr. Surendra Singh and I (ably assisted by Mr. Rahul Tyagi, Mr. Shailesh Nitin Trivedi, and Mr. Pratul Shandilya)- did from the 22nd-24th of this month at Delhi. [SNT took a photograph of our deliberation, which is posted here.] Thankfully, the sole testimony implicating me- that on the night of 21st May 2003, I presided over a meeting of more than twenty persons (including the state bureau chief of the Times of India newspaper) in which I discussed plans to kill the deceased- has been contradicted by documentary evidence in the form of passports of not one but four of those persons allegedly present at that meeting, confirming that they were aboard a flight to London on that fateful night. This fact has also been corroborated by the passenger manifest of the relevant airline. Despite insinuating that the entries in the passport and passenger manifest have been ‘managed’, the Central Bureau of Investigation has not been able to produce any proof to substantiate its allegation despite being in possession of the documents for over ten months now. While demanding possession of the said documents, the CBI stated, “we are getting the matter investigated by the Interpol and the High Commission”. Infact, there is every reason to believe that the Bureau has deliberately suppressed the report of the Interpol investigation into the veracity of those entries. The other equally telling revelation is the belated appearance of two handwritten pages: the witness was not only asked to write beforehand what he was expected to tell the Magistrate but to make sure that he didn’t get anything wrong, the I.O. (Investigating Officer) cut-out sentences and rewrote them in his own handwriting. Here is positive proof of precisely how the Bureau manufactured ‘evidence’ against me. What really bothers me is- why?
Ideas for Communal Feasts
Finally, I want to mention something about weddings. There’s been a flood of them: every night, I end up going to atleast four; and there are many more that I can’t. At the risk of generalizing, I find that receptions have gotten more ostentatious and outlandish. Perhaps the recent Abhishek Bachchan- Aishwarya Rai wedding has something to do with this? Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to attend a simple communal-wedding of twenty-four couples at Dhaneli, a village in Balod. Raja Sahu, the local Zila Panchayat member organized it. He has been doing this for six years running. Needless to say, functions like this one save society from needless and wasteful expenditure, and should be emulated by the young. That is what I told the children (seen here perched on a tree- once again, SNT's photograph).Papa’s 61st birthday is less than two days away. With the exception of last year, when I was in jail, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t with him on this day. So this year too, I will be going to Delhi to spend the afternoon with Papa. As always, he isn’t keen on celebrating. He’s told all his well-wishers (myself included) that he would be happiest if we spend the day doing something good for those less fortunate. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate one’s birthday. Or for that matter, weddings.
Friday, April 27, 2007
The Pursuits of Law