A politician, a lawyer, a businessman and a murderer walk into a bar. No, this is not a bad joke but what might soon happen in the next few days. Manu Sharma, son of former Congress politician Venod Sharma has been granted parole AGAIN. The first time he was granted this privilege it didn't end well (more on that later).
Manu is best known as the man who shot Jessica Lal point blank in the face for refusing him a drink and then scooted from the venue with his cronies in tow. Yes yes, we all get angry when we want another drink and we are refused one. But most of us don’t whip out a gun and shoot dead the person saying no to us. And we certainly don't run around scot-free for years, intimidating witnesses and obstructing justice. But, different strokes for political folks. Finally in 2006, seven years after shooting Jessica Lal, Sharma was convicted and given life imprisonment for Lal’s murder.
Sharma is now out on parole for 15 days to – wait for it – take his second year Human Rights examination. Yes, that’s been kept in bold for a reason. Because nothing can be more ludicrous. Yes yes, everyone deserves a second chance. Let me hear you say that when you or someone you know gets shot in the face in cold blood for maybe refusing to serve someone another plate of biryani.
Okay, so what irks me about this, repulses me actually, is that this is a man who — for starters — murdered someone in cold blood. He then spent many years and much clout in trying to subvert justice. Witnesses turned hostile, two gun theories were introduced – this was something out of Godfather. Without Brando or Pacino, but with a podgy Punjabi and his even sleazier looking dad in the key roles.
Why do I feel Sharma shouldn’t get parole? The obvious reason is that if you took away a person’s right to life, you have no right to live a free life for whatever reason. Setting that aside, even if one were to subscribe to the rule of law, let's be clear that not everyone is entitled to parole. According to The Telegraph, "Parole is not a matter of right, it’s granted under special circumstances, it’s not a holiday from jail. Parole is granted only for specific purposes, say for father’s cremation or an equally serious matter, and that too it’s given for a day or two".
According to a Rediff news report, "Nearly 400 parole applications are received each year, of which only 100 are granted, depending on the reason given for the temporary release." In fact, after Sharma had received parole last time, Tihar inmates had written a petition to the Delhi High Court demanding transparency in the process of granting Sharma’s relief. The petition also claimed that parole was given only to influential prisoners. The Delhi government’s response to the petition has stated that only 25 percent of parole applications were approved. And of course, Sharma fell into that 25 percent.
Ah, but there’s always good behaviour and humanitarian grounds. That was the reason given when Manu Sharma was granted bail in 2009 – barely 3 years after his conviction. He was given parole to visit his ailing mother. He was also not supposed to step out of Chandigarh. Beta ho to aisa. Only hitch – his mother was addressing a press conference the same week she was supposed to be ailing.
So what did Sharma during his parole? Did he study? Visit a few temples? Sleep? Well, for one, he went to a bar. Not only did he leave Chandigarh, he somehow found his way to the discotheque LAP in Delhi and got into a brawl. Displaying his earlier prowess at escaping from venues where he gets into brawls, once again Sharma made a quick exit from the rear entry of the bar. Sadly for Sharma, he got into a brawl with a cop’s son, and the Delhi Police sent a letter to the Delhi confirming his presence at LAP. And Sharma returned to Tihar cutting his holiday, sorry parole, short by 12 days. Poor baby. Can’t a murderer even party in peace nowadays?
So going by past behaviour, would you give Sharma parole again? I’d say no, but hey, what do I know.
This is a man who murdered someone in cold blood. Denied murdering the woman, threatened witnesses, and lied. I keep repeating this because everyone I speak to seems to forget the basic premise of my problem with him. He then flouted his parole rules – and how. And now all of us women of Delhi can feel so safe and secure at the knowledge that Sharma is out on parole for 15 days and has to stay in Delhi.
What did we do deserve this? It’s bad enough surviving a day in Delhi without getting molested, raped or just roughed up by some high-on-testosterone Delhiite. Now we have to deal with a convicted murderer out on the loose. And yes I know, he’s been told to not go to bars. We’ve seen how well he follows instruction and how much he fears the law. I’m sure he must have also been told at some point not to shoot women or anyone in the face. He didn’t really listen to that either, did he?
There is always room for discretion while granting parole. To put things in perspective, neither Ian Brady nor Myra Hindley — the Moor Murderers — were ever given parole. Hindley in fact completed her Open University degree while in prison. Charles Manson has had more than 30 parole hearings. And he’s been on the best behaviour ever. There are some crimes and criminals who simply do not deserve a second chance. And if Sharma is indeed so desperate to study, I’m sure it is possible to take the exams while in Tihar.
As a woman and a citizen of India, I think it is revolting that a man from a life of privilege can commit a murder as heinous as the one Manu Sharma committed, and be assured a prison term full of holidays. And his life of privilege is important, because he has no excuse for what he did. His parole sets a terrible precedent and example for the many other trigger-happy men from influential families who roam around Delhi and our other cities with an air of entitlement and little regard for women and the lives of others. I for one am repulsed and slightly petrified that in a few days time, I might just bump into Manu Sharma sipping a glass of wine at the next restaurant I go to eat at — and he might just have read this article.