News Update


Why did it take 42 years in Uttar Pradesh, India, to convict a 90-year-old?

A 90-year-old Indian villager who murdered 10 people in a case of caste discrimination 42 years ago was given a life sentence last week. Legal experts claim that this is a typical instance of “justice delayed, justice denied,” and the families of the victims claim that the court decision came far too late for it to have any significance for them.

The elderly inhabitants of Sadhupur village in the northern province of Uttar Pradesh will always remember the evening of December 30, 1981.

Around 6:30 p.m., a gang of individuals entered the compound of my home and began firing, according to Premvati. She doesn’t know her exact age, but she thinks she’s around 75.

She adds that within minutes, three of her children – sons aged 10 and 8 and a daughter aged 14 – were dead all around her. “They didn’t ask me anything, they just began spraying bullets at us,” she claims.

Premvati displayed her wounded right leg to the photographers and cameramen who arrived to the village in response to the court order. The injury has healed, but the scar is still visible.

The 10 Dalit community members—previously considered “untouchables”—who were slain that evening included her children. Premvati was one of the two injured women.

In custody: Ganga Dayal
picture caption
Ganga Dayal (center), the only remaining defendant, has been given a life sentence.
Judge Harvir Singh of the district court in the town of Firozabad sentenced the sole surviving defendant, Yadav caste member Ganga Dayal, to life in jail on Wednesday. Dayal was also told that he had to pay a 55,000 rupee ($668; £533) fine or he would have to serve an extra 13 months in jail.

Nine of the ten defendants passed away throughout the course of the trial, according to the judgment. Many of the prosecution and defense witnesses also passed away in the interval, according to attorney Rajeev Upadhyay, who appeared in court on behalf of the government.

The boundaries of the case have become a little hazy because it took more than 40 years between the offense and the sentence.

Premvati and other Dalit peasants assert that there was no animosity between their family and anyone else. But according to Mr. Upadhyay, the violence was brought on by some Dalits’ complaints over a ration store run by a Yadav caste member, which strained relations between the castes.

When the crime first made headlines, Indira Gandhi, the country’s first lady, and Vishwanath Pratap Singh, the state’s chief minister, allegedly visited the villages and promised them justice.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a prominent member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and ultimately India’s prime minister, had marched to the village to denounce the killings.

Premvati recalled the man’s words, “He said he couldn’t bring our dead back to life, but promised to help us get justice,” adding that the villagers had learned of the conviction from journalists who had come to interview them about the court’s decision.

She said to them, “Only God knows if this is justice.

Premvati and other Dalit households
picture caption
The Dalit families claim that journalists who visited them to get their reaction informed them of the court judgment.
We appreciate that we have finally received justice, but it didn’t come at the proper time, said Maharaj Singh, Premvati’s much younger neighbor who also lost family members and grew up hearing stories of “that evening’s carnage.” If justice had been served to us sooner, we would have been happier.

“The courts took 42 years to administer justice. Our elders would have passed away in peace if a conviction had been obtained in five or six years, he said.

According to Mr. Upadhyay, the reason the case took so long to be resolved was because, at the time of the killings, the village where the crime was committed was a part of the Mainpuri district. However, it joined the recently established Firozabad district in 1989.

The case files were abandoned in Mainpuri until 2001, when the Allahabad high court ordered that they be transferred to the Firozabad court.

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According to Mr. Upadhyay, the hearings didn’t start until 2021 as part of a government initiative to reduce court backlogs and quickly resolve old cases.

“The government and judiciary are trying to send a message to the public that law will catch up with you if you commit a crime,” he claims.

Premvati displays the scar from her leg’s bullet wound.
Premvati’s leg has a scar from a bullet wound in the photo description.
But according to attorney Akshat Bajpai, justice must be served promptly.

“In this instance, justice was truly delayed but not served. People can understand a two or three year wait, but forty years?

According to Mr. Bajpai, “the state has the responsibility to deliver timely justice especially to people like Premvati as they are Dalits who are among the most marginalised people” in the nation.

An unfavorable week for Indian justice
He continues, “The fact that the victims and their families had to endure 42 years of anguish is a failure of India’s criminal justice system.

There have been other court cases that have taken this long to resolve. The criminal justice system in India is renowned for its slowness, and many people complain that lengthy court proceedings annoy them.

King Singh
Maharaj Singh, who is quoted in the image as saying that the villagers would have been pleased if they had gotten justice sooner,
Due to this, there is a significant backlog of unsolved cases. The administration notified the house in February that there were close to 50 million cases still languishing in Indian courts.

The major reason for delays, according to MA Rashid, an authority on Indian criminal law and the creator of the Live Law website, is the insufficient number of judges.

In India, there are very few judges per 1,000 people, and each judge has a massive caseload. Thus, trials take a while to wrap up.

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Mr. Rashid also holds “archaic procedures” accountable for the lengthy delays in witness examination; for example, in spite of the development of technology, judges are still required to record witness testimony by handwriting it down.

He claims that it often takes at least five to ten years for appeals to be scheduled for a final hearing in the top court, followed by an additional period of time in the Supreme Court.

Therefore, he continues, “cases where convicts get exonerated at the appellate stage after 20 or 30 years are also not uncommon in India.”


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