[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#dd3333″]A[/mks_dropcap]nswering ‘yes’ to the title question above, means that in a country where ‘RIGHT TO EQUALITY’ is a fundamental right incorporated in Article 14 of the Indian constitution there are discrepancies in the reality of its execution. Does the concept of ‘Rule of Law’, which is considered such a substantial element of our country’s judicial system disappear and disappoint when it comes to celebrities?
On the other hand a ‘no’ to the question would mean that fame, power, money and influence have no impact on a right that is so vital and entailed. Is the ‘Aam aadmi’ and a celebrity treated alike and do they face the same trials, tribulations and the same consequences?
After studying some of the noted cases we can make a definite statement.
Navjot Singh Sidhu – the famous cricketer turned politician. He was convicted in 2006 for culpable homicide not amounting to murder in 1988. He was a sitting MP then, so, out of moral grounds he resigned from his post. This case attracted flak for a flawed reasoning in the SC judgement. The judgement had a lot of weak reasoning and clearly showed prejudice towards Sidhu’s status as a well-known person in the country. In fact, praising him, saying that ‘he could have gone on an appeal and retained his seat under sec. 8(4) of the RPA Act instead of resigning but did not do so’ showed clearly the double standards that our judiciary holds! He went ahead and contested elections from the Amritsar constituency soon after and ended up winning the election. Unfortunately the proceedings and the way in which the media portrays such incidents, we actually forget the fundamental issue and our thoughts digress towards something not so significant. Nobody remembers that a youth in this particular case was actually killed because of a blow (according to medical evidence) and the person causing this death is let off on bail, and then ends up contesting and winning elections! A sad reality that we have witnessed, portraying that there is first amongst equals as well.
Sanjay Dutt – the actor who also happens to be the son of a famous actor turned politician.
When one thinks about celebrities and crime, an incident that instantly comes to one’s mind is the infamous case of the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. The very case that turned out to be a nightmare for Sanjay Dutt. One of the most destructive assaults that was premeditated and executed by Dawood Ibrahim in our country. Sanjay Dutt was booked under TADA for having AK-56 rifles in his possession. He was charged under Arms Act and not TADA. The reason being, he could be granted a bail if he confessed. And he did confess that the rifles were in his possession for self- defence and nothing else. But the point is that it is rifles like AK-56 we are talking about here and not any revolver or other weapons that people commonly possess for self-defence.
Bias till date
A prejudice in the judicial proceedings can be seen right from the beginning of this case where many of those convicted were given harsher punishments for offences of lesser intensity than committed by the actor. Nearly a decade after the Mumbai blasts case, Sanjay Dutt was convicted in the year 2013 and he has already been granted parole thrice in just 3 months. Zaibunisa, who was also convicted of the crime but for a much lesser offence, was denied parole as it was considered that there were high chances for her to ‘abscond’. How is this even slightly possible when she is 70 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s?
Sanjay Dutt has spent 118 days out of jail after being convicted either on parole or furlough between May 2013 and May 2014. Recently in the month of December, a 14-day furlough was granted to the actor and the reasons stated by him are not known exactly. The frequent requests from Sanjay Dutt to get a leave from jail has actually made the government to wake up and propose a change with respect to the prison rules as well so that no possibility arises for prison officials to use discretionary powers. The Bombay high court has questioned the government as to why such earnestness is being showed towards granting the actor’s requests and not of other convicts.
Such signs on behalf of the police and other concerned authorities are very harmful and bring down the belief amongst the citizens of the country in law and order.
Other stories as well
The list of celebrities who have gotten themselves involved in judicial proceedings is a lengthy one. From Salman Khan who is involved in a hit-and-run case from 2003 and the illegal black buck shooting incident that actor Saif Ali khan and few other actors are also entangled in to assault cases against many Bollywood stars, the study of whether the judiciary is biased towards celebrities can be studied pretty conclusively.
Biased judiciary is a fact!
Celebrities and the affluent personalities have life easier as compared to the commoners when it comes to getting away with offences that are unlawful in nature. Actors from the film industry seem to be treated like demi-gods. The cases against them run into mind-bogglingly long timeframes that run into decades. This inordinate delay in justice delivery itself is proof that tactics are used to let these celebs remain free for as long as possible before a verdict is given which if passed may lead to their conviction or the due punishment whichever is applicable.
Preferential treatment to celebs is a harsh truth – would they have not suffered a legal consequence in the usual manner by now if not for their being celebrities?
So the question is after all, is law really law, when we are talking of celebrities embroiled in legal issues?
Justice is something that should be rendered effectively, rationally and equitably. All citizens, poor or rich, influential or commoner must be held on a common platform and their actions judged through evidences. It is the judiciary who is duty-bound towards ensuring this. Ultimately, justice cannot be something that can be bought through money or power or status. The reality however seems different. Hence the answer to the title question will more accurately be answered with a ‘yes’.