Much has been written in the past few days about the valiant battle that Aruna Shanbaug fought for 42 years, the dedication of the nurses in Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial Hospital, the debate on euthanasia and a lot more. As I flipped through teary eyed images of the KEM hospital staff, heard radio interviews of the nurses who cared for Aruna close to half a century, watched agitated TV debates on euthanasia, there is just one question that kept bothering me…
What happened to the man who was responsible for making Aruna live a vegetative, semi comatose life for 42 long years?
What happened to that rapist who didn’t just strangulate her throat with a dog chain but in fact strangulated every inch of dignity and life out of her?!!
Sadly nobody knows, yes you read it right, nobody knows!
There is not even a photographic record of him in the police files. Aruna’s assaulter, Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki walked as a free man in 1980 after serving just 7 years for robbery and attempted murder. A case where it is open knowledge that she was raped, the police FIR does not mention it because her then fiancée thought rape charges would tarnish her image. There are assumptions that perhaps Sohanlal changed his identity and even got a job in another hospital in Delhi. Close to half a century after this heinous incident, the Mumbai Police is now considering adding Section 302, that is murder charges, to the case provided they find Sohanlal. Even as I pen down these words, the incredulousness of the entire episode overwhelms me every minute.
This isn’t a one-off incident either. The tidings of the past few weeks point to one single fact, the need for urgent judicial reforms. It took the session court 13 years to convict Salman Khan for running into pavement dwellers in an inebiriated state but mere 48 hours for the Mumbai High Court to suspend the sentence and grant bail. After 18 long years and a conviction and ban on standing in election for 10 years, the Karnataka High Court found Jayalalitha not guilty in the Disproportionate Assets Case. Satyam’s founder Ramalinga Raju too was granted bail after the massive fund embezzlement in IT firm, Satyam? The two accused in the Delhi gang rape case are still alive despite continued call for their capital punishment and if you had seen the documentary India’s Daughters, the complete lack of remorse in Mukesh Singh’s face after what he committed will give you goosebumps.
What does all of these incidents point to? Is the law biased to the moneyed and famous? Is the guarantee of no conviction based more on the efficiency of your lawyer and how efficiently they are able to take advantage of the loopholes in the legal system? Well I believe they point to one single fact, it is time for urgent and comprehensive judicial reforms that not just gives a fair chance to the accused till proven guilty but also rewards the victim who gathered the courage to seek redressal in the altar of justice even in the face of extreme pain and humiliation.