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BPO Journal

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Justice outsourced

News is always more newsworthy in India - corruption scandals, hostile neighboring countries, and just yesterday, a uranium-based ash analyzer went missing in Jharkhand with no action reported so far. However, over the last few days that I've been here, there's something else that's grabbed the attention of the masses that's all over the news.

Two high-profile criminal cases. Priyadarshani Mattoo, a young law student, who was killed by Santosh Singh, the son of the commissioner of Police in Delhi after years of stalking and harassment. Jessica Lal, an aspiring model, who was killed by Manu Sharma in a fit of rage, when refused a drink after hours in a local pub. In both cases, the accused had managed to secure their acquittal in the lower trial courts for their heinous crimes. And everyone mouthed resigned sighs. This was India, after all. Such justice was their fate, wasn't it?

But that was not to be. Given the gross inefficiency of the legal and judicial system in the country, there was only one thing the stakeholders could do - outsource the judicial process. And that's exactly what they did. The jury of nine in the United States that uses rules of common sense to judge cases was replaced by a jury of several millions to try these high profile cases. Youth activists groups such as "Justice for Priyadarshani" and "Justice for Jesicca" were established, SMSs turned into protests, angst ridden letters were published in leading dailies and millions took to the streets in quiet protest. Several candlelight vigils, vehement newscasts, undercover investigations and outpourings of outrage later, the high court responded. The denouement was quick and prompt dispensation of justice.

In the case of Santosh Singh, the judges took just two-and-half months for admitting the appeal of the Delhi police, hearing the arguments on day-to-day basis and pronouncing a guilty verdict.
Similar was the fate of Manu Sharma, who was pronounced guilty for murdering model Jessica Lall by the same Bench.

Are there pitfalls to cases being tried in this manner in the media and the general public? Of course, but that's the subject of another post. And given the dearth of efficient alternatives, justice by the people, for the people, of the people is being taken very seriously here in India.

Outsourcing news
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