A Murder Conviction 26 Years After the Crime

May 05, 2008

In an order delivered this week in the murder trial of Delhi businessman Krishan Sikand, former army officer Lt. Colonel. S J Chaudhary was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder, and spared the death penalty.

This provided a great deal of comfort to the relatives of the murdered man who had been waging the fight for justice, and who are credited with having the will and patience to carry through the struggle. The murder was because the wife of the army office separated from him and started having an affair with Mr. Sikand. The army officer did not like this; so he sent a parcel bomb containing a grenade to Krishan Sikand who lost his life. Well, so this is a normal murder trial, what is so special about this?

Well, get this - the incident happened in 1982. Yes, you read it right, the murder conviction and sentencing happened 26 years after the incident. And this was after an effort by the nonagenarian father of the victim and an admonition by the High Court to speed the trial up. Read this article and the excerpt for more details:

The conviction ended the agonizing wait of the victim's father for justice. H D Sikand, the owner of car showroom Sikand Motors in the capital, made rounds of courts for more than two decades, waiting for the case to conclude. On Monday, however, the 98-year-old could not make it to court due to ill health. His grandson, Sanjay, called him up seconds after the judgment. "I was sure one day justice will prevail. Now I am at peace with myself," Sanjay quoted his grandfather as saying.

Krishan’s plight was first brought to light by TOI which had reported last year how a 98-year-old man was forced to move Delhi high court to press for his right to speedy trial. The protracted trial got entangled with the day-to-day hearings of the Uphaar fire tragedy case which was also being conducted by judge Mamta Sehgal. The judge had, in fact, cited her pre-occupation with the Uphaar trial as the reason behind the delay in this case. It took a nudge from the HC, which asked the judge to ‘‘spare time before lunch’’ to finish the hearings, for the Sikand trial to conclude on Monday.

So even though the victim and his family finally got closure, one can argue as to whether this is really a legal system that works. After 26 years, the sentence is finally delivered. And to do the same, the father of the convict has to put in a lot of effort. Such a long time would tire out the most patient of people, and in many cases, the people who are struggling like this either back out, or in many cases, actually die.

Speedy legal justice helps in preventing accused influential people from perverting the system, or from getting witnesses bought off, and also assures society that criminal acts can actually be punished fairly quickly. We need a legal system that can do that; and there are many studies and commissions that have recommended measures that can do that, such as:

- Fill in judicial vacancies faster
- Settle more cases so the government is not involved in so many at once.
- Use the recently activated system of plea bargaining to resolve cases
- Have more courts such as the evening courts introduced by Gujarat

Ashish is a blogger who got bit by the blogging charm a few months back, and it has hit him good. He is able to express himself through his blogs. Currently working with a software manufacturing company in NCR, India. Did a BE and then an MBA and has been working for around 9 years now. Is pretty passionate about current affairs, but did not have a vehicle to express his opinions till now. I primarily blog at Modern Indian Man, also write about Delhi, Tech News, and Photos 1 & 2
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May 5, 2008
02:53 PM

As a counterpoint, here's another news item:
Dallas Man Exonerated After 27 Years in Prison

James Lee Woodard walked out of a Texas prison last week after 27 years behind bars. The state now agrees that Woodard was wrongfully convicted in 1981 of killing a girl he had been dating.

Woodard is the 17th man from Dallas to be exonerated by DNA evidence. Nearly all are black. And the district attorney's office is predicting that Woodard won't be the last.

May 5, 2008
03:30 PM

Thanks Aaman, I know about the various projects in the US to use DNA project to free wrongfully convicted people. That is a commendable effort. And wrongful conviction is a whole new ball game, with a lot of research and effort.

However, getting speedy trials not happening is a different problem.

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