Yesterday I was watching the program ‘Bone Of Contention’ on NDTV. In the BOC students from different schools of the country participate in debate competition etc. Yesterday was the grand finale and the topic was: Death Penalty, For and Against. Both the teams put up a pretty awesome performance but in the end the team ‘for death penalty’ won by a slim one point. I’m not much into these social issues and stuff but I found myself musing about the fundamental question still left unanswered on the show, Should we ban death penalty (an eye for eye will leave all of us blind) or should we still continue carry out the gory act of playing god (to deter other criminals) and I slept over the issue.
Today morning as my eyes wandered on to the next main headline in the paper after the LTTE aerial bombing of Sri Lankan bases was the swift delivery of justice in the sensational Manjunath murder case.
Shanmugam Manjunath an IIM alumnus unlike many of his fellow batch mates decided to stay back and serve the country instead of pursuing greener pastures abroad. He joined the Indian Oil Corporation as executive. He was murdered on November 19, 2005 at the Mittal Automobile petrol pump after he threatened to take action against its owners for selling adulterated petrol. [Some real balls Manjunath had!] I had earlier seen a tearful and heartbroken Pramila (Manjunath’s mother; ask a mother how she feels when her son has been murdered for speaking the truth) break down in front of the President APJ Abdul Kalam on national TV and ask for justice for her son. Burkha Dutt who accompanied the tearful mother asked the President a question which went like “Is this the way India protects her loyal sons?” The president pointed at the serious lapses in our witness protection program. His reply reminded me of a line from Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers s The king is loosing the battle; He turns to Aragon and says, ” What can men do against such great evil?”
It drove me mad to think that in the era of rampant corruption a person who dared to challenge the system and show his middle finger to the mafia was murdered in broad daylight without any mercy. And all the blame was placed on the weak witness protection act prevalent in our country. What the bloody hell is happening in our country? Are we so infirm that we can’t protect a person who has dared to expose a bunch of criminals? If there is no guarantee that you will live, who the fuck will speak the truth? For a nation that sees a group of eleven men strutting around wearing swoosh emblemed apparel as symbols of national pride, take a break; people like Manjunath are REAL heroes. They show that no matter how big the risk involved (even at the cost of their lives) the truth must prevail. I salute you Mr. Manjunath. You alone, an employee of an organisation, with the power vested in you, dared to challenge a bunch of hardened criminals. Criminals, who would go to any extremes to protect their interests. You stood unflinching in the face of death and when you took the rouge’s bullet your battle was not over; in fact it had just begun. The public outrage that followed showed that the virtues of honesty that the father of the nation preached many years ago have not been forgotten. The aam admi fought your battle. People like you show what ‘having real balls’ is all about.
Today, 16 months after the murder of the whistle blower, which triggered a national campaign against corruption a judge sent the prime accused Pawan alias Monu Mittal to the gallows and awarded life imprisonment to seven others.
But I found the judicial language used by the court in the verdict very amusing (please excuse my insolence):
“It is a planned murder…the victim was unarmed when put to death…he was put to death without provocation…” [Wtf?…Planned murder? You expect the mafia to spare a person when they know that he is gonna blow their secrets…Real life is not like the movies. When faced with an array of guns the ‘real man’ doesn’t fly into the air and do a Matrix style stunt…without provocation? You expect Manjunath to scold his killers as BC and MC?]
It is reported in the papers that the nib of the judge’s pen broke as soon as he signed the death sentence (death. and only death. period.)
Coming back to the topic of death penalty which was discussed on the bone of contention. This landmark case has hardened my views on the need for a death penalty. People who oppose the death penalty claim that who are we humans to play god. Only the creator has the right to take away a life. No my friends. I opine that the creator due to his inability to appear in our courts (due to his overbooked schedule; seen Bruce Almighty eh?) to play judge has outsourced the task to the men in black. I’m not going back on my views. Manjunath’s father Mr. Raghvendra Shanmugam has made it his life mission to promote the principles his son stood for; promote honesty and integrity in public life and save many other Manjunath’s serving in every nook and corner of the country. He also said that the punishment to the main accused would not bring back his son but act as a deterrent for those who had corrupted the system. It’s the verdicts in cases like Manjunath and Jessica Lal that still make me believe in our judiciary system. That no matter how big or how important the accused is he will still be punished. Truth and Justice will prevail.