Millennium Post

Pace conviction

2017 didn't end well for Lalu Prasad Yadav. Facing conviction in a fodder scam case, the end of the year for him was ensconced behind the bars of the Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi, awaiting the full sentence of his conviction that was met out on Saturday, January 6. Taking the course of video conferencing, CBI special court judge Shivpal Singh, who had convicted Lalu in the last week of December, read out the full quantum of his sentence, which would see Lalu behind the bars for 3.5 years while also endowing a fine of Rs 10 lakh upon him for the alleged forgery that he had conducted between 1991-1994. The sentencing was against only one among the many cases of forgery that have surrounded the RJD supremo since the early 90s. This conviction comes in recognition of the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from the Deoghar treasury, over two decades back. There are still three cases of fodder related scams in Lalu's name that are awaiting their time to be heard in court. The RJD supremo's luck ran out at the end of last year, soon after erstwhile Bihar chief minister switched allegiances towards the ruling party at the Centre and the RJD Yadav was left to fend for himself. Along with Lalu, several other IAS officers also bit the dust as the conviction saw almost equal sentences being met out to them on allegations of cheating, criminal conspiracy and forgery of documents. Lalu's example is not an isolated instance. Politicians and the bureaucracy in our country have earned worldwide repute for being trusted scammers who indulge in underhand activities, seeking to solely benefit themselves or their interests. The BJP government had risen to power in 2014, largely due to the population's angst against the UPA government, which had allowed rampant corruption to prevail across the country. The 2G scam being the highlight of the entire course of governance, the Congress had been reduced to shambles owing to the several allegations of corruption flowering under their rule in the Centre. Defeating all odds and promising to overcome this age-old tradition in our country, the BJP had assured that corruption wouldn't prevail during its governance. So far, the top leaders and ministers of the brass have steered clear of direct allegations, though families have been intermittently brought under the scanner. It has been no secret that Lalu Prasad Yadav has been one of the most corrupt, who ruled a heavy hand during the 1990s. Alongside that, with the new wave of political governance ruling across the country, it is also no secret that Lalu has remained firm towards his stance and ideology, not budging an inch to give into the favours or biases of the ruling party. Hence, he alleges, that his conviction is a result of direct political conspiracy as the government seeks to overthrow a barrier that will certainly hinder its way. That said, what cannot be refuted is Lalu's culpable guilt in engaging in corruption and forgery. Politicians maintaining a clean slate seems to be an act scripted only in books, never practised in reality. The second fact that is highlighted through the journey of Lalu's justice has been the shameful speed at which the criminal justice system paces in our country. Crimes committed in the 1990s are being brought to book only in 2017-2018. Lalu's though is one of the rare instances where a case has finally been addressed. There are hundreds and thousands who still wait behind the bars for their cases to even reach the concerned judicial body. While some can afford a lawyer and grant themselves temporary bail, others, and this constitutes the majority, remain shackled inside India's prison system that is known for its brutal treatment of human subjects. 'Innocent until proven guilty'—a paradigm that has long been lost in the Indian judicial system. Over 1,79,000 criminal cases still remain to be heard across High Courts in the country. Lalu's ill fate had assumed an acceleration which propelled his case for fateful hearing. Several ministers and lawmakers of our country sit silently despite committing heinous crimes as the lackadaisical judicial system, flowing in its abated pace, allows them enough time to continue with their nefarious activities. On the other hand, the poor fall victim to this excruciatingly slow process, where often, verdicts of innocence are read out well after the convict has breathed their last. The corruption permeating India's higher offices is in tandem with the painfully slow judicial process that takes decades to roll out a simple resolution. The onerous task of completing files of paper or returning to the court, day after day, has rot the entire system that is expected to be one of the most crucial pillars of a democracy. The judicial system needs severe correction. Politicians must be convicted duly, without hesitation or delay, and the ordinary man must be able to fight for his justice instead of decaying in a system that is in itself in urgent need of correction. Convict the guilty, but more importantly, allow even the innocent to be heard.

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