by Aakar Patel Mar 17, 2013 09:37 IST
One of India's most infamous men hangs himself in jail, another is hanged without due process only days before that, and we are angry two Italians are refusing to come back to face trial.
Why are we even surprised? If I were the Italians I wouldn't come back either and I think it's understandable if their government lied.
Nobody trusts our justice system, including most Indians, and the only people who say they do are the accused who have no option.
Our record is atrocious and open for scrutiny. Almost any case you take, even one as crucial as Abu Salem's, will be messed up in monumental fashion. I'm not going to bring up Amit Shah, Gujarat's former home minister, who is himself on bail and facing serious charges while in office. Who will trust this justice system?
My friend Yug Chaudhary, who campaigns against the death penalty in courts across India, will tell you stories about law in India that will make your hair stand on end. I could tell you a few too. You need to have credibility if the world will send you its citizens for trial. India has none. We should accept that and clean up our act rather than blame the world.
To come to the case of Ram Singh, the man accused of murder and rape who hanged himself despite being unable to use one arm. How did he do this?
I'm interested because my beat as a newspaper reporter was sessions court and I have spent some time inside jails.
Prisons don't have fans inside the cell (or shouldn't). The only way to 'hang' yourself is to slip a rope or thin strip of fabric over the horizontal bars of the cell wall, and then sit down and allow your body to choke itself through gravity in a noose.
This is difficult and requires determination. I've not known of many cases where this is successful.
In an orthodox hanging, where a stool or chair is kicked out from under you or you plunge into the gallows like Saddam, death comes from the snapping of your neck. Not from slow strangulation, which is how it would happen in a jail cell death.
What did Ram Singh do? We have no idea. According to Hindustan Times "he hanged himself from a rod in the ceiling of his cell in Jail No 3 using his clothes". The paper added that "another version had it that he hanged himself from the ventilator grill." Zee News had a third version, that he had "used a part of bed linen."
The whole thing had been delayed by a day and Times of India said, incredibly, that "the postmortem could not be conducted as Delhi Police could not submit the required papers to the hospital on time."
One of the cruel things about being in an Indian jail is the lack of privacy. There is always someone around you. Not just the police but other prisoners (one report said Ram Singh shared the cell with three people). Solitary confinement here doesn't mean what it does in the west.
There are also closed circuit cameras observing inmates, especially those in solitary. How did he evade all this?
And then the material is not easy to fashion. Just cutting the clothes you have into straight strips and knotting them properly requires skill and application. A man with one dodgy arm would find it more difficult. Where did he get the tools from?
Making a noose isn't easy (try it). It requires for the knot to be of high quality, such as a slip knot, and placed in a particular way opposed to the carotid artery.
Nothing about this case should give us confidence in ourselves. Our record is poor and a humiliating and a very public demonstration of it is on view every other day. We have all of us seen police do unlawful things like thrashing offenders, even children, rather than proceed per law.
The police in India in such a case as Ram Singh's is guilty unless proven innocent.
This is unfortunate, but their record makes it true. And if we accept that, we should not insist that those poor Italians martyr themselves to our incompetence.
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