Way back in 2002, when Bollywood actor Salman Khan, supposedly under the influence of alcohol, rammed his car into a bakery and caused grievous harm to people present sleeping at the place of misadventure, the media erupted to cause chaos. After almost 13 years of court adjournments and mishaps, the case still is in a permanent state of stasis after Mr. Khan was sanctioned a bail.
Mr. Khan, a high-powered actor with lots of fan following and a strategically established charitable “Bhai” image, has garnered much attention for his act in 2002. Supporters of Mr. Khan, including those from the glamorous to the penurious, have come to defend him with their personal endorsements. Having been active in community service since 2007, Mr. Khan declares that he has already donated up to INR 42 crores to those in need and that “community service is in my blood”. Citing this carefully constructed persona, Mr. Khan and his supporters wish that his sentence be relaxed or the case simply be quashed.
Probably even before Mr. Khan bought the car he used in 2002, in 1997, when Ms. Jayalalithaa lost the elections right after her first term as the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu (1991 – 1996), a case was filed against her for amassing disproportionally high wealth when compared to her (comparatively meagre) salary and documented income. After 18 years of litigation, political drama and judicial mistakes, Ms. Jaya has been acquitted and is now back with a legally clean slate in the public and ready to return to her political chair.
Naïve supporters of Ms. Jaya, mostly the daily waged class and some from the salaried class, still cry in support for their beloved “Amma” as she has given them hope to live by providing them their daily bread and butter through her innovative and supportive schemes when in power.
The acquittal of Ms. Jaya, the delay in punishment of Mr. Khan and the response of a majority of the public in support of these personalities raise important doubts: Is charisma sufficient to acquit a person of the crimes committed? Is a large supportive following enough to deny a person’s punishment based on a vote of majority? Are we still citizens of a modern nation where everyone stands equal before the law? Is the judiciary truly trust-able? Should we all try to form another country for ourselves? Is reform even possible?
Mr. Khan and Ms. Jaya – Back; Judiciary’s Role – Bleak.