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Ryan Murder Probe Highlights Class and Caste Bias in Justice System, Once Again

Two months and many protests after the murder of the Class 2 student Pradyuman on the campus of Gurugram’s Ryan International School, a class XI student from the same school has been arrested. It’s a strange twist in the case.

Adrija Bose | News18.com

Updated:November 9, 2017, 4:14 PM IST
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Ryan Murder Probe Highlights Class and Caste Bias in Justice System, Once Again
File photo of Pradyuman Thakur.
New Delhi: In a courtroom scene in the 1993 Bollywood blockbuster, Damini, Sunny Deol, who plays a lawyer, bemoans the ease with which justice is subverted by gaming the legal process. Life seems to be imitating cinema way too often. Every now and then we get a tragic reminder of class and caste bias in our criminal justice system.

Two months and many protests after the murder of the Class 2 student Pradyuman on the campus of Gurugram’s Ryan International School, a class XI student from the same school has been arrested. It’s a strange twist in the case. Hours after the second grader was found outside the school toilet, with his throat slit, crawling and bleeding profusely before he died, the Gurgaon Police arrested Ashok Kumar, a bus conductor. The Gurugram police also said that the suspect may have attempted to sexually assault the child.

Gurugram police had claimed that Kumar was waiting inside the toilet and as soon as Pradyuman entered, he tried to sodomise him. Police said Kumar slit the second grader’s throat and dumped him in one corner of the toilet. Pradyuman managed to reach the corridor and collapsed there while Kumar apparently washed his hands and the knife in the toilet. Not too many were convinced with the police’s story.

Saurabh Raghav, the driver of the same bus in which the accused was a conductor, had told TV channels that he was being forced by police officers and threatened by the school management to say that the knife used in the crime was part of the bus tool kit. Pradyuman’s father, Varun Thakur, continued to demand a thorough evidence-based probe.

There are new details emerging now.

The CBI has said the initial probe has revealed that a Class 11 student from the same school killed the second grader because he wanted the exams to be postponed. They have not found any role of the conductor. As per the analysis of CCTV footage, the boy was the prime suspect. The first question that comes to one’s mind is — was Gurugram police trying to divert the media attention by making it appear that the case was solved? Also, it highlights how easy it is for police to make culprit out of a poor man.

It can’t be a coincidence that marginalized sections of the society are repeatedly blamed for horrific and complex crimes. In many cases they are put behind bars for years without any trial.

In 2008, when 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar was found dead in the bedroom of her house in Noida, the family’s live-in domestic help Hemraj Banjade became the prime suspect till he was found dead the next day, on the roof of the same apartment. That wasn’t all. In his report, Dr Naresh Raj, who had conducted the postmortem on Hemraj had said that his penis was found swollen and this was because “he was in middle of or about to have a sexual intercourse just before he murder.” Earlier this month, while acquitting Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, the Allahabad High Court dismissed the postmortem doctor’s testimony and termed it “medical blasphemy”.

In the 2007 rape and murder case in Vijayawada, Satyam Babu, a Dalit, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Babu was acquitted in March this year after spending eight years in jail. The court found no evidence to prove him guilty.

When the question of whodunit comes, it is often that the marginalized becomes the prime suspect, often without evidence. A 2015 study conducted by the National Law University students with the help of the Law Commission, which analyzed data from interviews with 373 death row convicts over a 15-year period, showed found three-fourths of those given the death penalty belonged to backward classes, religious minorities and 75% were from economically weaker sections.

One of the biggest reasons why the poor, Dalits and minorities are discriminated against by our courts is their inability to find a competent lawyer to contest the charges. Struggling to make both ends meet, most cannot afford costly and lengthy legal battle. Oblivious of their legal rights, they become easy targets.

Many a times, they succumb to pressure from the higher ups because they are vulnerable. In the 2002 hit and run case, Salman Khan’s driver said that he was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. He denied the prosecution’s suggestion that he was paid huge sum to own up the crime. However, several questions remained unanswered in the case.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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