Justice will be complete only if Salman Khan is lodged with ordinary criminals!

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Special cell or treatment will defeat the purpose of the conviction, which is to make Salman Khan realise he is not unique.

After roaming freely on bail for close to 13 years, bollywood’s biggest grosser, Salman Khan, will finally go behind the bars.  A Mumbai Sessions Court on Wednesday pronounced Salman Khan guilty and sentenced him to a five-year jail term for mowing down five pavement dwellers under the influence of alcohol on September 28, 2002. Returning drunk from a late night party at Marriott, Salman, who was behind the wheels, lost control and his Toyota Land Cruiser swerved onto the pavement in front of the American Express bakery in Mumbai’s Bandra locality. At the time of the mishap, at close to 2 am, five people were sleeping on the pathway. One was left dead and four were grievously injured…

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Bollywood lives in a self-created bubble and Salman Khan is no exception. The 49-year-old actor and his bunch of dim-witted lawyers tied themselves up in knots from day one. Salman continuously denied the charge that he was under the influence of alcohol. He also maintained till the last moment that he was not even driving, clearly in contrast to what victims, witnesses and a constable assigned to protect Salman, said. The constable, Ravindra Patil, died of tuberculosis in 2007, but not before conveying the truth.

Perhaps, Salman Khan’s indictment is a posthumous vindication for Ravindra Patil, who constantly maintained until his death that it was the actor who was behind the wheel that fateful night.

Which brings us to the most important issue – why can’t we create an architechture of jurisprudence where justice is served within a time frame, especially when the evidence is overwhelming? How can something as black and white as the hit-and-run case take 13 years to come to a conclusion?

The justice system is so sluggish, the lawyers, who are actually duty-bound to assist the Court in dispensing justice, whether defending or prosecuting, are involved knee deep in perjury. Why did they try to manipulate the case with fabricated evidence? The lawyers insisted that it was Ashok Singh who was driving, not Salman Khan. They purposely dragged the case for years in the hope that the issue would lose its gravity with the passage of time and Salman might just get away easy. The licenses of such lawyers should be suspended and their conduct investigated by the Bar Council.

Had Salman Khan not run away from the spot like a criminal and stayed back to help the dead and the wounded, the Court might have passed a different judgment, a softer one. If he had been a responsible man and taken the injured to the hospital, if he had reported the incident to the police immediately and taken full responsibility, the Court would have kept all that into consideration and perhaps, given him a symbolic punishment only. But Salman Khan did everything that a guilty conscious man would do – deny it all! It’s not enough to be a reel hero, it’s important to be a real hero!

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Some of Salman’s sympathisers are saying absurd things. Popular singer Abhijeet says, “kutte ki tarah road pe soyenge to kutte ki maut hi marenge!” In his insanity, he went on to blame the dwellers for their fate, saying why were they sleeping on the pavement? Abhijeet should know that these people do not have any option; they don’t have their own homes to sleep in. People are rightly suggesting action against such insensitive breed of inhumans who are consciously blind to reality. Their callous remarks are a slap to the victims who are simply resigned to their meaningless existence.

Nobody remembers the victims today. Nobody is concerned about the fate of the family members of the dead. We don’t know what happened to Kaleem, the man who lost one of his legs that night. They have become the forgotten victims. India should be seeking those answers, and not get carried away because of the personality involved. Have they been given compensation, have they been provided jobs, housing? Why are we so fixated with the quantum of punishment when the real focus should be on the victims and how they can be rehabilitated? Salman Khan going to prison is a consequence of his action. He should be grateful to have been free for so many years, and not crib.

Salman Khan’s people have reportedly harassed the witnesses and victims alike over the years. Adopting intimidating tactics, they pushed them to retract the case and accept money. A life was lost that night and although the justice was not denied, it was clearly delayed beyond imagination. Unless there is a robust law that operates on a time-bound mechanism, the disempowered will continue to wait endlessly for a simple act of justice.

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Salman Khan has been given temporary relief by the Bombay High Court till Friday, but he will be taken back to the Arthur Road jail to serve his sentence after that. Yes, he will appeal and could possibly even get a reduced sentence. But unless and until such callous celebrities are brought to books, and punished for their crimes, the rich and powerful will always believe that they can do what they want and still get away.

As far as the Bollywood fraternity goes, let’s face it, all they are concerned about is the money riding on Salman Khan. An estimated 300 crore is invested in him and producers are naturally a worried lot. They are likely not too concerned about the person on a human level because the industry has been known to be forgetful of those who find themselves caught in the web of law.

Whether Salman fades away into oblivion in five years’ time or stages a comeback, only time will tell.

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