For years, we have envied Salman Khan for getting away in cases in which he has been accused of crimes. We have lamented the slow justice system for allowing cases to drag on. We have been dismayed by subversion of justice by hostile witnesses, pliant officials and corrupt investigators. For years, we have watched him walk out, chest puffed with pride, after every court appearance.
It is possible that the same circus may be repeated after his latest conviction for killing two blackbucks in Jodhpur 20 years ago. Like in the past, his lawyers may knock on the doors of the High Court, seek bail and then let an appeal drag on. The questions on every mind, as this report is being typed are: how quickly will he get bail and will he actually serve the sentence? And we may again lament that an offender got away because of his clout and money.
There is no bigger relief than to see convicts serve punishments they deserve. It not only establishes the rule of law, but also acts as a deterrent for society. If Khan manages to walk away again without serving his sentence, it would indeed be a travesty of justice.
Yet, let us spare a thought for Salman Khan. Think about all the years he has spent running from one court to another, managing lawyers, witnesses, and investigators; worrying about samples and licences; dreading the prospect of spending old age in a prison; in fact, living perennially under the shadow of the case, letting it dictate his life choices and decisions.
Even if he gets bail again, his sentence gets suspended and he is let by a higher court, Khan has already paid for his karma. For almost 20 years, he has lived in the shadow of uncertainty, the fear of a life spent in jail.
Look at the compromises he has made, the egos he has massaged, the feet he has touched, the people he has managed through pleas and supplications, by surrendering his own ego. Imagine the pain of putting out a charitable face just to evoke the pity of the public and the justice system. Yes, Khan has already been punished.
There is, of course, the irony of his success and super-duper stardom since his days of bad karma. During the 90s, Khan was nowhere close to the phenomenon he is today. Back then, his films would not generate the kind of hysteria they do today. Back then, leave alone a Rs 50-crore opening, even a decent collection in the first week was not considered a fait accompli.
How does one explain this contrast in fortune? How does one analyse the Indian audience’s ever-growing love and adulation for Khan in spite of his criminal past, ill-treatment of female co-stars and history of subverting the justice system? If one were to look at it philosophically, it would be tempting to think that maybe he has suffered so much in private that he has been forgiven, granted some karmic pardon.
What’s more dreadful than punishment? As Fyodor Dostoevsky established in Crime and Punishment, it is the mental anguish of the memory of a crime and the fear of punishment. Had Khan found some sagacious counsel, he would have perhaps preferred to expedite his cases, perhaps even pleaded guilty, sought leniency and got over and done with the ordeal. That way, he could have served a mild sentence and moved on in life, instead of turning his life into a 20-year wait for justice. But, as it turns out, by delaying justice, he has denied himself a life.
Yes, Khan may walk out again a free bird, like he did after his first conviction in 2006, wearing a white T-shirt with two flying eagles emblazoned on the chest. But, if that happens, the freedom would have come after 20 years of captivity, spent in the dark corridors of fear and uncertainty, with no end in sight till the higher courts end his agony.
Updated Date: Apr 05, 2018 18:39 PM