Monday, May 11, 2015

Victim’s Rights

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

Last week’s court proceedings in Mumbai about a Hit and run case from 2002, was major headlines all across the news and web channels.  Salman Khan, who has been accused of driving drunk and killing one and injuring others was in court, finally, and the hearings, judgement, bail and the ensuing drama surrounding the proceedings makes one wonder about the victim’s rights in a high profile case.

One of the survivor of the accident says “We don’t want to see Salman going to jail.  We bear no ill will towards him.  Our family has been hurt and destroyed because of this accident and we only want help with moving forward with our life”.  It was on 28th of September 2002 when this happened and many years have passed by and much has happened to the lives of those involved.  Salman continues to be a superstar and the pavement dwellers have lost a life and lively hood.  After so many years of coverage and hoopla the case finally got to court on May of 2015, and the arguments focused on if Salman was driving the car?

There is still no resolution on what will happen next despite the court hearings, judgement, bail and further opinion of a superior court on Salman’s sentence to a five year prison term, and granting him bail until further hearings.  The judicial system is definitely very slow in dealing with the case load they have.  Every case they have on the docket takes many years to simply come to hearing and much longer to final judgement.  Often the parties to the case, both sides of the argument are fuzzy about what really happened and the story changes many times in the time that is lost before things are argued on court.  The recollection of things that transpired gets changed and often difficult to assimilate as the time goes by.  When a celebrity is involved, the whole world would already have an opinion on what happened (as if they were there).  The press, social media and general public would have already have made up their mind on the accident and many times during the course of time would have changed their opinion on what they believe as facts (as if they were there in person), and changed their mind on the same many times.

What will not change is the life of the victims and the accused.  Whatever the cause of the accident; the difference is with the life of accused and the victims.  Someone died or got hurt, be it with negligence or accidental, whatever the cause it does cause damage.  The damage to property and the human suffering itself is immediate.  For someone to wait for decades to have closure and receive any compensation for the loss is more painful and damaging than the accident itself.

Most of the high profile accidents get a lot of publicity just because of the celebrity status of the individual involved.  What happens to the victims after the initial hoopla? What happens to the accused?  How does both the parties deal with the prolonged legal process?  The uncertainty is not just with the Indian legal system, but with just about every legal system in the world.  Even if the right facts come out after the prolonged wait and then the legal proceedings, who will actually get justice?

Does the victim who has lost life or suffered injuries and can no longer support his/her family get any justice by simply jailing the accused?  Is the system simply prolonging the suffering for the victim and uncertainty for the accused?  Why isn’t the government mandating the insurance to protect all the parties involved?  There are so many more loopholes to the process than just a prolonged and uncertain legal process.  The fact that both the parties to the case continue to suffer; one with human suffering and other with uncertainty.

Everyone involved and every system that is involved really needs wholesale changes in the process of handling the accidents; be it involuntary or voluntary.  Victims of prolonged delays in handling the case, and not having the insurance to help cover the accidents and health related issues should be dealt with, with at most care.  People who buy vehicles and pay for registering them must also be forced to pay for insurance to cover the damages and health related issues that follow the accidents. While we want to have a developed transportation system, we must also enforce the insurance that covers any loss of property or loss of life.  If we don’t then the entire population becomes victims of the system that simply doesn’t know how best to handle the vehicular accidents.

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