People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 30

July 26, 200

PROF SABHARWAL MURDER CASE

 

Accused Out, MP BJP Govt In Dock

 

Jaswinder Singh

 

ON July 13, a special court in Nagpur pronounced its verdict in the Professor Sabharwal murder case and now the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh is deep in jubilation over it. Its chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, immediately came out with the statement that he had already described the episode as an accident, and that the court has now confirmed his opinion. One notes that the chief minister had pronounced this opinion immediately after the fatal attack on Professor Harbhajan Singh Sabharwal took place on August 26, 2006, taking his life.

One of the ministers under the same Chauhan, who once described the peasantry as a lot of beggars, went to the extent of saying that he felt not as much elated on winning his assembly seat or on becoming a minister as he now felt when the accused in the case have come out.

 

COURT PAINED,

BJP ELATED

And this is so when the court has not given any clean chit to the accused. In its verdict, the court specifically opined that the accused could well be guilty but the prosecution (i e the BJP government of the state) had failed to marshal enough evidence against them. The court said categorically that it was unable to do justice to the deceased professor and his family members. The government pleader also confirmed the court’s opinion. He said the state police did not cooperate with him in bringing the culprits to book, nor was the police administration sincere about collecting evidence against them. 

Yet, the BJP and the ABVP are elated over the very verdict which pained the court itself. They distributed sweets and organised frolics over this very verdict.

Does the court verdict exonerate the accused who belong to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS? By no means. It has only put the BJP state government in the dock. When the chief minister said he respected the court verdict, this warrior of the fascist communal lobby was perhaps not aware that such a comment from the judiciary was no ground for feeling proud or elated but for feeling shame. After the verdict, the whole episode has only further lowered the common man’s faith in the administration and police. 

The police know very well that a court does not attach much value to the statement a witness makes to the police. This is more so in a sensitive case where the accused have political relationships with the ruling party. In such a situation, it is very difficult for a witness to hold his ground to the end. In such a case, the police record a witness’ statement under Section 164 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), i e in the presence of a judicial magistrate so that a witness is not able to deny what he had said in his statement earlier. But this procedure was not followed in the Professor Sabharwal murder case. And this was so while the witnesses were crying hoarse on TV channels that they were being threatened with dire consequences and sometimes allured also. The main accused, Komal Singh Solanki, admitted on a TV channel that those related to the accused were bargaining with him --- that they would bear the whole responsibility of his daughters’ marriage.

 

POLITICAL

PRESSURE

In fact, the appearance of Komal Singh Solanki as the main witness was enough to expose the political pressure working behind the scene. The accused had threatened the college principal in the presence of TV channels. They blackened the face of another teacher in the very presence of the police. On TV channels, the whole country saw them manhandling Professor Sabharwal. But nobody came forward to appear as a witness after Professor Sabharwal’s murder. A Class IV employee of the college was made the main witness in the case. The probable conclusion of the case was evident on the very day the police officer registering the FIR was promoted.  The police selected 40 persons as witnesses but their volte face in the court was quite natural after the said police officer changed his statement. The main witness, Komal Singh Solanki, pleaded inability to recognise the guilty. Nobody was in any doubt as to what was happening, how and why.

It is not that the accused are ordinary ABVP members. The relationship the ABVP state president Shashiranjan Akela, one of the accused, has with the chief minister is no secret. The meeting of yet another accused with the chief minister was arranged in a sly manner. From the Ujjain Jail, he was brought and admitted to the M Y Hospital in Indore. Then the chief minister visited him on the plea of the hospital’s inspection, and stayed with him for an hour. This was their way to convey to the investigating agencies that he and the other accused were no ordinary criminals but state guests.

On the TV channel IBM 7, Ashutosh, a well-known journalist, told the country in a special report that the accused were lodged in the jail not as ordinary criminals; rather they were enjoying all the comfort there. In fact, they were living in the jail as state guests.

It is as clear as daylight that, ignoring all the protests outside and caring a damn for probity, the Shivraj government did everything possible to save the accused. The whole state witnessed a bandh against Professor Sabharwal’s murder. Teachers refused to observe the Teachers Day and receive any honours on September 5, 2006; instead, they organised a Black Day. Inside the state assembly, the whole opposition demanded that the case must be handed over to the CBI. But the Shivraj government flatly turned down the demand.

 

APPREHENSION

COMES TRUE

If the case came to the court, it was only because of the efforts made by the late professor’s kinsmen. They filed a writ in the Supreme Court, requesting that the case must be heard outside Madhya Pradesh. The Supreme Court, too, accepted that an impartial hearing was not possible in the state. Thus it decided that a special court in Nagpur (Maharashtra) must be hearing the case, though the deceased professor’s son wanted that it be heard in Delhi. This too was, however, in itself not enough to ensure justice as the investigating agencies were still working under the Madhya Pradesh government. It was clear that these agencies were engaged in obliterating the evidence and making the witnesses turn hostile. The wife of the deceased has brought the charge that the concerned CD was deliberately sent to Gujarat for verification and that it was tampered with there. The apprehensions, expressed on a wide scale, finally came true.     

And now the chief minister as well as whole of the government and administration, who were earlier involved in obliterating the evidence and making the witnesses turn hostile, have got a new job for themselves --- to make the people believe that the court was wrong. The chief minister has repeated that it was no murder but a simple accidental death. But the post mortem report said two of the professor’s ribs were broken. Some bleeding also took place because of the assaults the professor suffered. What was the reason for all this if it was an accidental death?

Every system has its own values and moralities. In a feudal system, the words pronounced by the king are the final truth that cannot be challenged. The society has to accept it as the king is recognised as the God’s representative on the earth. Now it appears that, immersed deep in the dreams of a Hindu Rashtra, Shivraj Singh Chauhan takes himself as a king. He feels the people have to accept whatever he says. But we are living in a democratic system which has different values. Now justice is what the people accept to be justice. In the Professor Sabharwal murder case, the people do not appear willing to accept this particular conclusion of the case. It does not concern only the kin of the deceased. They said they would file an appeal in the High Court against the verdict. The government pleader also said he would ask the government to move the High Court against it. Komal Singh, the main witness, says he is receiving threatening phone calls --- that he must do whatever he is told to do if he wanted to see his family members secure. The former college principal too has regretted the decision, saying how the court could punish the guilty when the police officer who had registered the FIR had changed his stance.

 

MEDIA

OPINIONS

The irony is that the media, which can be easily ‘set’ by ads and packages, are not prepared to accept that there is nothing fishy in the whole affair. Not only the reports in all newspapers in the state described the court verdict as astounding; their editorials also put the BJP, the entire Sangh Parivar and the state government in the dock.

Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi) wrote two editorials on this episode, and one of them was titled “Verdict Comes, Not Justice.” It said, “The courts are a part of the system of justice which process starts from investigation…. Courts can administer justice only if there is sincere and honest investigation; otherwise, only verdicts would come, not justice.” Putting the state BJP government in the dock, the editorial said not only the kin of the deceased were doubtful about getting justice because of the association of the accused with the BJP. “Even the Supreme Court felt the process of administering the justice could get hampered if the case was heard within the state where political pressure could be brought on the police.” The subsequent developments proved that the apprehension was not without ground.

The Nai Dunia (Hindi) directly targeted the government machinery. Its editorial said, “The acquittal of the accused in this unprecedented episode was not as astonishing as was the paucity of evidence. There was full TV coverage on the spot in an atmosphere of polling and Professor Sabharwal was seen with a group of students. Misbehaviour and manhandling were also seen. The post mortem report too found that the professor’s ribs were broken and consequently his lungs were damaged. This means that something took place in front of hundreds of persons, and yet the police failed to get enough evidence! It is surprising that the court accepted this so-called helplessness of the police.”

Raising an accusing finger towards the state BJP government’s attempts to save the culprits, the editorial asked: “Who broke the professor’s ribs if not the accused? Till how long will the judicial process be deceived in the name of “the unknown” and “the crowd”? The reply has to come from those who were witness to everything but ran away and hid behind a hapless employee when the time came for them to speak.” It further said, “If the suspect were the ABVP leaders who were engaged in argumentation with and manhandling Professor Sabharwal, how did the police fail to marshal such evidence as could corroborate the incident? Obviously, the needle of suspicion is pointing towards such persons as are in power now, and are fanatics as well. It is worth recalling here that the chief minister himself visited the accused when the accused were under treatment in a hospital.”

Raising questions about the government and its agencies, Patrika wrote, “The verdict brings the working of the state government’s investigative agencies to the dock. After all, which direction their investigation was taking? Even if we accept that the accused implicated in the case were not guilty, who were the criminals who resorted to vandalism in the college campus?”

The very title of Dainik Jagran editorial was telling. It was: “Proof of not Allowing Justice to Take Place.” The editorial said: “The comment of the court means that, very deliberately, justice was not allowed to take place in this episode.”

As the kin of the deceased have said they would move the High Court against the verdict, it is obviously not final. Yet the verdict has brought to the dock the same state BJP government and the same Sangh Parivar who are so much elated over it. Now let them tremble over what the final verdict might be!