Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Priyadarshini Mattoo, Arumugam Kounder and India's judicial system

On the 23rd of January 1996, a Delhi University student by the name of Priyadarshini Mattoo was found murdered at her Vasant Kunj flat in south Delhi.

A trial court in 1999 had acquitted the accused, Santosh Singh, a lawyer by profession, citing lack of evidence even though the judge admitted he knew that Santosh was the killer.

10 years and almost 10 months later after the day of the crime, on the 17th of October 2006, justice was served. The killer was convicted by a High Court, after the trial courts decision was termed as one "that shocked the conscience of the judiciary". Chronology of events in the case

The case captured national headlines and prime airtime on news channels, because of the gruesomeness of the crime and the callousness of the investigating authorities.

The judgement brings a ray of hope to cases like the Jessica Lall case, and others.


Yesterdays HT carried a story of a 45 year old man Arumugam Kounder who came to Mumbai to work. He was Tamil, knew no English, Hindi or Marathi and was arrested in a rape case of a minor. He was poor, and was innocent. He was not aware of the charges that are levelled against him.

Kounder was arrested just three months after he arrived in Mumbai from Tamil Nadu, hoping to find a good job. He was working as a civic garbage cleaner at the time he was charged with rape and murder.

He spent 11 and a half years in prison before he was freed because the Inspector who implicated him left a note before committing suicide that he had falsely implicated Kounder on the orders of a senior officer.


I leave you to ponder over the cases.

For every known Mattoo, Lal and Katara, there are a dozen other nondescript men and women who have been killed and their killers never been convicted.

A Google search on Arumugam Kounder yields no results. Which is not the case with 'Priyadarshini Mattoo'.

So many innocent people like Arumugam Kounder languish in jails for crimes they have never committed.

Think over it. Some food for thought. And, say a prayer or two for the Indian judicial system, one that takes the responsibility of imparting justice and fairness in the world's largest democracy.


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