Justice via Media

The conviction of Santosh Kumar Singh, son of a former IPS officer in the sensational case of rape and murder of Priyadarshni Mattoo is a welcome development. Coming as it does eleven years after the trial began; this landmark verdict has no doubt given a ray of hope to many others who are fighting protracted legal battles to get justice for their slain near and dear ones. Noteworthy as well is the fact that the conviction of a rapist and murderer, no matter his ‘high status and connection’, should go a long way in restoring people’s faith in the criminal justice system. 

It has to be borne in mind that notwithstanding this intervention by the Delhi High Court, the country’s justice system is in dire need of a major overhaul especially at the lower level steeped as it is with corruption. While delivering yesterday’s verdict even the High Court could not avoid but make a mention of how the trail courts in the country have been criminalized beyond recognition. The earlier acquittal order passed by the trial judge in 1999 in this particular case has not only ‘shocked the conscience of the judiciary’, but had completely destroyed the credibility of the judiciary in the eyes of the common man. The earlier acquittal verdict was shockingly worded thus “Though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him, giving him the benefit of the doubt”. Hopefully this latest court verdict will have a positive impact on pending murder cases and for those campaigning for justice in other similar cases.

The deliverance of justice though delayed in this case should also note the role of the media and how it was the mainstream media which campaigned relentlessly and brought such cases into focus. While there remains strong criticism over what many from the ‘establishment’ perceive as ‘trial by the media’, had it not been for journalists and their reportage, justice may have never come by. Credit where it is due has to be given to the media. 

In a democracy, the Fourth Estate has to continually play the role of a watchdog and to ensure proper checks and balances. The recent JEE scandal closer home may have remained a one-off news event if it was not for the local media highlighting the issue on a sustained basis. That justice was finally restored on the deserving students remains a matter of great satisfaction for The Morung Express as it was this paper which first brought the raging debate into the public domain. As such even the term ‘trial by the media’ may have to be redefined from the perspective of the people and not as a derogatory term to suit the vested interest of the powerful few.