Sabse bada rupaiya: Did you think Salman Khan would be jailed for 5 years? Pity
Did you OD on your mid-week beer, visualising Salman Khan serving a watery dal to fellow prisoners in your very Bollywood-tinted imagination? Did you have wonderful jokes lined up about how the number of days he spent in jail would be directly proportional to the number of packs on his abdomen? Did you relish the deep irony in the name of his blockbuster Wanted? Though you couldn't believe this was happening, did you still say 'jai ho' to Indian law when Khan finally got sentenced, over a decade after he had run over men sleeping on a pavement, killing one?
The Mumbai sessions court's decision shocked us. The intense anguish and immense joy displayed by fans and critics alike after the verdict was announced on Wednesday both showed how we are reconciled to the fact that the law works differently for different people in the country. And when something to the contrary happens, we can't believe our eyes or ears. Jubilant or aghast, we were all in shock.
No wonder then, from memes to jokes, from long paeans to the Indian justice system to articles on what the judgement means to us, all forms of the media were flooded with evidence that few expected Salman Khan to be really convicted.
Actor Arjun Kapoor tweeted this after the verdict came.
Cant wrap my head around what's happening,scary how fickle life is,hope n pray he emerges stronger like he has in the past @BeingSalmanKhan
— Arjun Kapoor (@arjunk26) May 6, 2015
It's quite ironic that Kapoor finds the incident of Khan's conviction 'fickle' - given that running over a man and killing him is a punishable offence by the law of the land. We, who don't enjoy the privileges of being Salman Khan, are dead sure that we would be jailed if we were guilty of an accident. Yet, we were shocked that the court eventually nailed Khan.
But, as you must have gathered by now, you can to snap out of that reverie already. Khan's sentence has been suspended by the Bombay High Court. Salman Khan's lawyers will file an appeal against the sessions court verdict. The state will appeal. Then the high court will consider the appeal. Depending on the verdict the matter will then go to the Supreme Court.
Which means Khan is not going to jail anytime soon.
This sounds more like the country you know. You have gone back to having realistic expectations of your country again - like feeling suicidal while trying to get some job done at a government office, not expecting government websites to work, being terrified of making a trip to the police station even if to lodge a complaint. Because one belief you have always maintained about the country has just been proven true again after one brief, and what seems now aberrant, moment. That while you and the rich, popular and the powerful are technically under the same system, it reality it works differently for different classes of society. You, unfortunately, aren't the one it favours at all times.
Honestly, the Bombay High Court's decision is not surprising. It's bolstered legally too. "As per the country's law, in a case in which the sentence is less than seven years and the decision has been appealed then bail is the rule, jail is the exception. The court has to be convinced that there is no case for bail and not the other way round," said a lawyer friend.
However, given it took 13 years for the country's judiciary to pin Khan down, the bail, which came before you could blink, feels exceptionally unfair. Two hours to bail. Two days to sentence suspension. While it's might be legally sound, one cannot help but feel it takes ages to convict the rich and the famous for heinous crimes, but with a good and expensive lawyer, it doesn't take them too long to get out of the clutches of law.
Contrast this to case of the Class XII student in Uttar Pradesh, who had posted a status update on Facebook critical of Azam Khan. The moment the minister's PRO filed a complaint, he was arrested and taken into custody. The proceedings took its own pace and didn't happen super fast, like it did in case of Khan. That's the difference between a common man at the receiving end of law, even unfairly and a celebrity.
This rollercoaster journey in the last two days shows how we are conditioned to expect the rich and the famous to have undue privileges, law be damned. And we have strangely made peace with it too.
We took this Salman Khan episode as proof to convince us that we were wrong in being cynical. It was meant to remind us that the country has the same law for all its citizens. And it did. But we didn't realise picture abhi baaki hai. The postscript reminded us that how the law works for you depends on how deep your pockets are.
Updated Date: May 08, 2015 18:21:08 IST