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In India, the term ‘sub-judice’ is a blessing for wrongdoers. The moment a case lands in the court, the accused is saved from all kinds of embarrassments. The accused, even if the evidence is very strong against him, gets the ‘sub-judice’ cover. The provision disallows particularly government representatives and even the media from discussing such matters. Obvious criminals, in public eyes, like Asaram Bapu too enjoy the provision. Although the Indian media have nowadays become aggressive not even sparing the judiciary – sometimes for valid reasons – officials and politicians still play safe taking cover of the ‘sub-judice’ shield. Although the provision prevents innocents from being maligned in public, the major share of its benefit goes to the wrongdoers.

The ‘sub-judice’ term has no relevance for accused, who are common people and has no connection with the high and mighty. It comes to play only for those accused, who are powerful and influential, and their accomplices. The Meghalaya legislative assembly Speaker recently refused to entertain a censure motion against two women ministers, against whom cases are pending. Social welfare minister Deborah Marak is accused of having nexus with militants while urban affairs minister Ampareen Lyngdoh was named by the CBI as having complicity in an appointment scam in education department during her last tenure as education minister. There have been demands from various quarters for resignation of the two women ministers. The Opposition too wanted to nail them in the assembly, but the Speaker turned down the resolution terming it ‘sub-judice.

While authorities stop giving information, such cases carry on for years and decades sometimes. The once sensational incidents get erased from public memory. Public pressure, which can make wonders, gets off such cases. It’s then the turn of pressure from unholy lobbies on various authorities handling such cases. No wonder why witnesses turn hostile and honest investigating officers get shunted. Public prosecutors and even judges are not above suspicion, as proved in many incidents. Many public prosecutors are infamous as smart negotiators and nothing more. They prepare the ‘compromise formula’ at the cost of public interest. While all these things happen, no question from media or any quarter is entertained because the case is ‘sub-judice’. Is it time to review such provision which aids suppression of facts?

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 29, 2014)

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