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What compensation?

Editorial |

It would be both premature and inappropriate to speculate on the outcome of the sensational “Ryan School” murder case, in which the Central Bureau of Investigation has just filed a chargesheet in a Gurugram (Gurgaon) court. Yet it would be valid to ask how the “state” will atone for the suffering and hardship of school-bus conductor Ashok Kumar upon whom the local police had initially sought to “pin” the murder. The CBI has given a clean chit to Kumar, called for him to be discharged ~ maybe it can do little else.

Still, the Haryana police, or the state government must be made to pay for the deliberate attempt to falsely implicate him only to create an impression of being quick to work out the case. A thorough probe is necessary, and the cops who tried to “sell a dummy” have to be given exemplary punishment. For there was little “mistaken” about his alleged involvement, as the CBI probe has established.

Kumar was arrested on 8 September, immediately after the killing and languished in prison for almost two months thereafter. It requires little imagination to understand the mental and physical trauma to which he has been subjected. A continuing trauma to be sure, for even when he is discharged from the case a stigma will linger. Will he get another job easily, how will he be accepted by society, would he have to re-locate in a bid to build himself a new life? All these queries demand answers if justice is to truly prevail: punishing the alleged killer is only one part of the sad story. While one life has, tragically, been lost, another has been virtually ruined ~ and sight must not be lost of the latter.

It is standard practice of the police to mislead the public, seek kudos for quickly working out a case. Alas, public memory is too short ~ and media attention too superficial ~ to monitor the eventual outcome of a case: interest tends to dissipate after an arrest is made and the glare of publicity dies down.

The cops are well aware of those realities, it is seldom that a more professional, subsequent investigation is conducted and “corrective” action taken. Sadly, there is a vast difference between corrective and “remedial” action: on most occasions a person is so relieved at being cleared of false charges that he/she allows the matter to fade away, rather than get themselves into public attention again.

Understandable, perhaps, but is that all the legal system offers? In an age of judicial activism the courts would do well to add a new dimension to jurisprudence by injecting a compensation angle when acquitting persons who had been falsely implicated. Penalising the cops who played such dirty tricks would be a good first step in a positive direction.