Court Adjourned


I look at the man’s face as he nonchalantly negotiates Delhi’s evening traffic. I am trying to be as normal as one can be, sitting next to a killer. “What happened next?” I try to sound normal.

It has been two long days for me, facilitating a group of decision makers of a national organization in Delhi. Now, finally, I am free and ready to step out of the hotel. My hosts have been kind to me; a rental car with a driver is waiting to take me wherever I may want to go to. Dhaula Kuan, where my brother-in-law lives, seems to be a good idea.  I might get some comfort food there.

As I step into the rental car, I notice the driver, who seems to be in his early thirties, only as much as you notice someone you will probably never see again. We greet each other; I tell him where to and off we go. As he emerges on to the main road, a conversation begins. I ask him where he is from.

“I am from Himachal Pradesh. We are three brothers; my older brother is in the Army, the younger one is with the Delhi Police. I too would have been in the uniformed service; I nearly joined the Border Security Force but, well, fate came in the way.”

“What happened?”

His is a landed family. Another family disputed their ownership of the land and, at one point, beat him up. “I was nearly dead. For six months, I simply could not get up. But who can kill if God is there to save you?”

Miraculously, gradually, he recovered. Then one day, he went to a village fair nearby and there, he ran into his tormentors. One of them walked up to him and slapped him across his face. In humiliation and anger, he returned home and took out his father’s gun. He went to their village and shot three of them dead.  Point blank.

I look at the man’s face as he nonchalantly negotiates Delhi’s evening traffic. I am trying to be as normal as one can be, sitting next to a killer.

“What happened next?” I try to sound normal.

He was sent to the notorious Tihar Jail. The jailbirds welcomed him with evil-curiosity and subsequently with respect. The older ones asked him whether he would like to ride the motorcycle or play golf. Riding the motorcycle meant cleaning the toilet and playing golf meant swabbing the floor. He refused both and they let him be. The family had “taken care” of the cops, who then told the jailers, who in turn had told the inmates to leave him alone. “Is ladkeko tang mat karna” was enough to spare him hell.

After a few months at the infamous Tihar Jail, he was sent to the Juvenile Jail.

“Thereafter, I was in and out of jail on bail. The lawyer was amazing. He told my parents to get me married.”

“Married? But, how was that of any consequence?”

“I don’t know. But somehow being married makes a difference. The judges are more sympathetic.” So, he married and, in time, had two babies. Today, he is thirty two and his older one is already twelve.

All this time, he has been out mostly on bail. Sixteen years have gone by and the trial is still on.  Meanwhile, he has learnt to drive. He has been driving cars for the typical Delhi car-rental agencies.

I ask him, “Now that you’re out of jail, aren’t you concerned about the family of the folks you shot dead? Aren’t they out there looking for you?”

“Oh no, as long as I am on bail, I am actually very safe. While the case is on, they know they simply cannot touch me.  The cops have drilled sense in them. The day I came out on bail, they told their families that even if someone else hurt me, it would be their clan behind the bars for suspected revenge-killing. In fact whenever I visit the village, no one ever troubles me.”

“When is the next court appearance?”

“Next month, on the sixteenth.”

“What will happen that day?”

He shrugs. “Nothing.” There is a profound finality in his voice.  He has figured out a system I have not.

We arrive at my destination and I step out of the car.

My head is muddled. Here is a self-proclaimed killer of three who has a license to drive a car. For sixteen years, his guilt is not pronounced and who knows how many more years before the matter is settled one way or the other? Meanwhile, it is perfectly okay for him to be out leading a normal life, drive people in a rental car, not to talk about escort vehicles for the police!

But then, don’t we have such people in the Parliament and outside, some even occupying high public office?   Some of them have actually killed for gain as against this man who was all of sixteen and mortally tormented before he picked up the gun.

We have arrived at my destination. As I get out of the car, I ask the man to go get some dinner for himself. The taillights of the rental car disappear beyond the bend. I turn around and take a deep breath of the air of Delhi, capital of India. What, I ask myself, is the basis of a civil society? What is the meaning of law here and what is the idea of government?

Comments
Archana Suresh Says
Monday April 5th 2010

A great way to get a message thru, this story is. In Karnakataka, our dear ex-CM says its absolutely fine for criminals to be in politics as they could change into better citizens! The guts people have to use this in their campaigning is just too much! We, the educated, have to refuse to vote unless there is a “none of the above” option.

    stacy Says
    Tuesday April 27th 2010

    When ‘we the educated’ refuse to vote, we leave the fate of our country in the hands of those less qualified. The criminals will campaign and win because ‘we the educated’ are waiting for better options. Among the criminals are people who can make a difference, we must recognise them. When we have elections coming around, read up on the various candidates. There are so many sites now that make it so easy to get information on all candidates. With all due respect sir, don’t sit there and wait for options, make new options. Give your voice to those who can use it to make a difference

Ananth Says
Monday April 5th 2010

That is a very troubling story and whenever I read about honesty, rule of law and other ideal things, such types of things often bring me back to earth. I just can’t understand why people can’t be good to each other.. may’be its in our genes. Competition, survival by hook or by crook..!!!

radhakrishnan r Says
Monday April 5th 2010

dear mr subroto
i appreciate the openness with which he explained the whole thing true criminals are only made by circumstances and not by option

thanks & regards
radhakrishnan

    Karthik Says
    Sunday November 14th 2010

    Kinda late but this is ridiculous, the person had the option of not killing the three individuals.

Prasad Says
Tuesday April 6th 2010

Hi Subroto,
Here is a classical example of situational crime ,one not intended to.The society produces criminals mostly for their own benefit.
What was also heartening to read was at least in Tihar he was not not raked much because one sometimes becomes more criminal than being transformed and then pushed into the society to assist politicians. At least our civil society has given him a chance to earn his own bread and have living is a sigh of relief.

Umang Says
Tuesday April 6th 2010

its a wonderful point sir,
it wasnt even define in my civic book ..
well here is what i think..
due to the low salaries, there is a lot of corruption..
why not increase thier salaries and collect more taxes from the local people.. it wont make a difference to the government as the fiscal deficit will not take the burden..
this will also tackle the black money issue brilliantly..
as we pay surcharge or educ cess on taxable income .. lets pay 1% or 2% .. corruption eradiction tax.. too which seems to be the root of every problem in the country..
there are no prizes for guessing, why is he in and out of the jail..?

Vivek Singh Says
Wednesday April 7th 2010

Ah! I think I know many such cases. After reading about your life in your books I don’t think that you would have got surprised. But yes concerned and that is required.
We have adopted so many things as “Indian” way of living life. This is one of those.
One of my driver in Tamilnadu use to compare Indian traffic police from Dubai’s. Once he made double line at red line. It was not appropriate in that situation and the traffic police was not concerned. Then I asked him that could he do this in Dubai. He said no and added that the police would have fined him severly.”It means it is wrong to make double line?”. “Yes”, he said. “Then why did you did it here in India? Dont’t you think it is more comfortable here in India because you are standing at no.1 spot without paying penality and without having to stand in queue?”. The fellow had no answer. He could not and can never decide that whether Dubai is better or India in this condition.
But that is the way of life here.

Miller Says
Wednesday April 7th 2010

Justice delayed is justice denied. When do we realize this fact?

Shujaat Says
Thursday April 15th 2010

Dear Subroto Bagchi,
I have studied so many biographies of top successors like Bill gates, Dell and you surely.

I always found so many similarities between all these successors like the hurdles in their childhoods. Parents hard work, lesson of life etc.

I don’t know to which extent i am correct or wrong, but I feel it personally, the success comes with the will.

lesson we learn in our lives, comes through the actions which we people usually do. the payback comes with the art and skill you utilized. i never heard that someone from succeeds because he sleeps, but if you see the people who fail to succeed, or people who come down form success to fail, have more or less same lessons of life.

I feel confident to read such articles but I also get depressed, because I have no such life symptoms that i had no water coming out tap or I don’t own my parents home.

What do we think is correct but what we think recursively is also correct.

What is the crux of success for people who don’t face the problems in early stages of their lives and onwards? This is my question to all successors.

regards and cheers to all.

Uma Says
Friday April 16th 2010

Hi Subroto,

Your dialogue with the driver has really brought out the real state of our judicial system in our country. We are still living with the myth – ‘there is delay but justice will prevail’. There have been umpteen cases where judgements are given after the guilty has expired example – Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s case.

Kamal Says
Friday April 16th 2010

Hi Subroto,

I am a big fan of your writings and your thoughts.. by the way, with this, I would say, that this is how we have learnt to deal with things. Every child learns his way out of the system from what he sees around him, experience is what we call this…. !! I also really feel bad about every thing that happens around us, but you really can’t do anything about it.
I know we say, that the change begins at home, but what will you call this, this guy was beaten up to the death, it was his fate that he was saved, what if HE would have been killed in that? The same story would have been for the one who killed him.. It’s the Jungle rule out here in India…Survival of the fittest, or fastest, or …. put any adjective, the fact is you can’t really change the world, the world will change you, sooner or later !!

Ajay Das Says
Wednesday April 21st 2010

This is just one of many such examples when innocent men in our country have been forced to commit crime. Aren’t our legal and judicial system are to blame? As long as the judiciary and law are not rid of corruption many such young men and women would land up on the wrong side of the the law. No one is born criminal. Criminals are the creation of our society. We have been talking about this at different forums and platforms since independence. Those rhetoric and spirited words have just vanished in the air. Let’s thank our law makers, thinks-tanks and a large population of morally debased politicians.

Mr.Bagchi, your shock and pain are genuine and plausible. But let’s not shed crocodile tears. Kudos to us proud Indians – we learn well and very early in life to live in mess and squalor. The mess, the filth, the squalor teach us the tricks to live, no matter how and where. I appreciate the courage and the will power of the taxi driver. I do not know whether I could have had that grit to survive but I wish I must have.

sampad Says
Thursday April 22nd 2010

Hi Subroto ! Great piece. Love the way you say what you say. Have been following your writings with great interest and looking forward to yet another great book from you.

Gayathri Says
Wednesday July 28th 2010

Hi, This is a great write up. Well though I have nothing against the driver in particular I feel the Indian judicial system is big mockery. Criminals get scott free after years and years of trial. At the end of the day I really wonder if the Judiciary punishes the criminals or the one seeking the doors of law to help them. As is always is Justice delayed is Justice denied.

ramesh Says
Friday September 24th 2010

wow is this really true!! not many would have experiences such as these .. and i wonder what the driver saw in you to give such a description of his life!!

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