Sunday, 24 June, 2007


This is the about a real incident.It's about the way the Priyadarshini Mattoo case was handled.It has been written by the person who was responsible for triggering the public agitation and giving it the coverage it deserved which ultimatley led to JUSTICE.Although this a matter which might have gone a little stale and nothing much has happened since then to convince the existence of the court for JUSTICE TO ALL,yet I stumbled upon this mail while going through all the folders and after I read it ,I felt just as I had after reading it for the first time.I felt that sharing it with everybody through my blog would be the best way to do so.Here it is.

"Justice For Priyadarshini"… My experiences with the fight against injustice!
- Aditya Raj Kaul

Initiator, Justice 4 Priyadarshini
"Priyadarshini Mattoo" was the name that used to haunt me every now and then a few years back. I had heard and read a lot about this case, but never did I actually bother to see what had happened in the case and its current position. The picture in my mind was hazy.

It was in February this year that Jessica Lall case was in the headlines, because of the acquittal of all the accused in the case. This verdict gave me a tremendous shock. I could never believe my eyes watching the criminals going scot free just because of the lack in investigation. That was the time when I realized that now is the time for the country's youth to take charge. I used the best weapon at my end; which was writing. I wrote to editors of various newspapers, followed by discussions on this case in various youth forums and groups. I could not believe that a public outcry in this case immediately helped as the Delhi High Court took a sue motto notice. It had given me a hope, that we are united against injustice.

During this time, another case, which I had earlier as well read about, caught my attention. It was the Priyadarshini Mattoo Case. Media was trying its best to highlight it as far as it could, but nothing really was coming out. My 12th board examinations were on but my mind was as well following this case.

Priyadrshini Mattoo Case: A Brief History

Priyadarshini was brutally raped and murdered on 23rd January 1996 in broad daylight in a posh South Delhi locality by his senior at the Law Faculty, Delhi University, Santosh Kumar Singh. The accused was son of a senior IPS officer.

In the verdict given by Additional Sessions Judge on 3rd December 1999, Justice G.P. Thareja said, " Though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him giving him the benefit of doubt."

The judge also went on record saying, " The CBI in the matter of DNA evidence has not acted fairly. It tampered with the evidence of clothes of the deceased and also the blood sample of the accused. It even fabricated the documentary evidence and also the Malkhana Register of the CBI as is clear from the discrepancies."

The CBI filed its appeal challenging the courts verdict in the Delhi High Court in 2000, since then 7 years have passed without a single hearing of the case. It was a shame for the Indian Judiciary.

Online Campaign Begins

On March 22nd this year when I read an article of Mr. C.L. Mattoo, Priyadarshini's father, in a national daily, it sent shivers down my spine. My heart cried at the agony of the father, a father who had been fighting; for more than 10 years to get justice. I was determined to do something, which could still give some courage to him to fight this battle. Finally, on that very day I decided to start an online signature campaign, which had a petition addressed to the Honourable President of India and Chief Justice of India asking for retrial and reinvestigation in this case.

I had found a new modern way for people to speak against injustice and discrimination. I was thrilled to get an overwhelming response from people across the world; thousands of signatures were collected, my inbox was filled with mails and at every nook and corner people were discussing about this very case. It was towards the end of my board examination in March when NDTV contacted me for a story on my petition. The story was telecasted the next day. Later that day, NDTV asked me to come for a very special live panel discussion. I was asked for my opinion and what motivated me to start this campaign. I clearly remember the last question by the anchor Nidhi Razdan: Are u hopeful that justice will be done in the Mattoo Case? After a brief gap…. I replied "No, not at this moment"

Later, another channel CNN-IBN covered a story on my petition, and I was again invited for the evening live panel discussion with Rajdeep Sardesai on the `Face The Nation'. It was a bit similar experience.

Our Team : "Justice For Priyadarshini"

Even though the case was on and off the media's attention, not much was happening on the ground. But I decided to take this forward upon request from all my friends and others. Many youth contacted me from around the world, mostly from India. After brief research of two months in this case me and my friends decided to form a group of volunteers who were determined to work for the cause. This led to the formation of "Justice For Priyadarshini", which soon became our campaign name.

A friend from USA who was actively involved with me in this group introduced me to his sister a journalist working in Delhi with one of the top media houses who was interested to work for this cause. In our first meeting, we decided to meet Mr. C.L. Mattoo, Priyadarshini's father.

It was on May 4th that our small group comprising of me, that journalist friend and another of her friend, took the courage to meet Priyadarshini's father. On the one hand my heart and mind was involved with the anti-reservation protests, but my soul was stuck with justice for Priyadarshini. This was the day when President of India invited me and my group for talks on reservations.

It was hard for us to face a father who had completely lost the courage to move on. As we entered his room, he greeted us and directed us to make ourselves comfortable. After the introduction, he told me that there is a young boy who has just finished his 12th and had started a campaign for this case. He asked us to contact him. I was surprised as he was referring to me. The journalist friend sitting with me introduced me as that very boy who had started that petition. The moment he heard this he stood up and hugged me, he thanked me for unknowingly helping him. I could see drops of tears coming out his eyes. I could feel my heart crying, I was motion less. I did not know what to say. I replied that it was my duty to raise my voice being an Indian citizen. Though I wanted to say more, I stopped. At the end of the meeting he asked me to continue my efforts, I assured him that day, that I will do whatever I can in my capacity to get justice. The journalist girl with me was equally enthusiastic about this case. She decided to study the case in detail and then work on it technically. She was with me in this campaign at each and every step. I felt Mr. Mattoo was now somewhat hopeful of justice being done as the youth had taken charge.

I believe this was the first day of our campaign and gradually more people started to volunteer for the cause. We decided to have a protest march on 23rd of July, which was Priyadarshini's 34th birth anniversary.

We started working hard towards our goal, organising door-to-door campaigns, meeting various groups and individuals for support became a regular affair. In a short span of time, more than 25 Delhi based civil society groups, NGO's, women's bodies, students groups etc. pledged their support for this cause. One of the first groups to lend a helping hand was Delhi University based students neutral group United Students, who had started the anti-reservation campaign in the country. They mobilized nearly each and every college in the campus area by distributing pamphlets, sticking posters, organising corner meetings etc. Even the faculty and students of the Law Faculty, Delhi University where Priyadarshini used to study, joined this movement. Many other organizations like Jagori, People's Action and Human Rights Law Network just to name a few raised their voice for this cause.

Just days before the protest Mr. C.L. Mattoo decided to visit Delhi to support the group and raise this issue on a larger scale in front of the media. We organized a joint press conference, which strongly demanded an "immediate reinvestigation and retrial within a stipulated timeframe". This conference became the headlines next day. In the meantime many electronic, print and radio media organizations extended their support to the cause.

The Protest that Shook the Country

Finally, came the day that we were awaiting, it was 23rd July. The entire group was nervous, we had spent the previous night planning strategies, discussing various other things and completing last minute work for the protest. As we moved to the protest site, India Gate, a few hours before the protest, we got a message that our venue was shifted to Jantar Mantar due to some last minute security concerns. It was a very hard decision to change the venue; we hardly had any option, other then to follow the advice of the Police.

We immediately decided to plant our volunteers on different corners of India Gate to direct people towards the changed venue. I had never expected this last minute change, this was a shock, but we had to tackle it and make our rally a great success.

I checked the time in my wristwatch, it showed 4:30 pm, the scheduled time for our protest to start. I took a round of Jantar Mantar. I tried to figure the exact number of people present. The figure was shocking; there were hardly 25 people with 30 journalists standing and staring at this small crowd. I had anticipated a much larger figure. I was disheartened.

After a few minutes, I jumped with excitement when I got a call from a volunteer standing at India Gate, he told me to be prepared, hundreds of people had already landed at India Gate and were now directed towards Jantar Mantar. My elation knew no bounds when I saw countless number of cars and other vehicles coming from the Janpath side road towards Jantar Mantar. I was re-energised.

Media swung into action. The electronic media started their OB vans, with live coverage as the protest began. Photographers struggled to get space. Entire Jantar Mantar was full of people. Soon after, many personalities who had pledged their support for the cause landed at the venue, it included actors Anupam Kher, Roshan Seth and M.K. Raina, politician and activist Manika Gandhi and film director Ashok Pandit. Even Neelam Katara, mother of the murdered Nitish Katara, who has been also fighting for justice, joined us in the rally.

The air reverberated with slogans like, "We Want Justice" and "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied". The depth in that one united voice from the crowd touched my strings of my heart. It was totally different atmosphere, a new experience for me.

CBI Action

The very next day CBI filed an early hearing petition in the High Court due to immense public and media pressure. The High Court heard the case on August 30th and set it for regular hearing on daily basis.

The case continued for a month, around 14 hearings and finally the judgement came on October 17th 2006

The entire country was eagerly awaiting the Judgement which was scheduled to come in the afternoon on 17th of October 2006. I was sitting in the Delhi High Court, praying in my heart. The criminal, Santosh Kumar Singh was sitting in the next row in front. The judges entered the court at about 2:15 pm, Justice Sondhi announced the verdict before the jampacked court in complete silence. The Judge said, "From an overall analysis of circumstances that have been discussed above and held to have been proved beyond any doubt by unimpeachable evidence, we are of the view that those circumstances form a chain so complete which leads us to the only conclusion that it is the respondent, Santosh Kumar Singh, who had committed rape upon the deceased and then murdered her."

Immediately, after this statement I could see Santosh's face turning pale and his lawyers as if mourning in grief. The Judge continued, " The circumstantial evidence in the case is absolutely inconsistent and incompatible with the innocence of the respondent. There is no circumstance brought on record by the respondent suggesting his innocence or the possibility of anyone else having committed the ghastly acts. The trial court, however quite amazingly, after holding almost all the crucial circumstances in favour of the prosecution, has ordered unmerited acquittal of the respondent by taking a perverse approach in the matter. By acquitting the respondent despite being convinced that there was no doubt in the prosecution case (at least for the affence of murder) the trial court has mauled justice, its decision has shocked the conscience of this court."

I took a deep breath and a sense of relief…finally truth had won and justice had been done. Santosh Kumar Singh, the cruel murderer had been convicted and immediately arrested by the CBI. Media inside the court rushed out of the court, to cover the event live and first. This case was historic in many ways.To capture the historic event; it was history in the making right in front of everyone's eyes.

This case will set a precedent for all similar future cases. But the delay in this verdict is a cause of concern. Judiciary needs to set a stipulated time-frame for all extra special cases of murder, rape and national security etc. The Judicial process in India is very time consuming, and no one is sure of light at the end of the tunnel. Judiciary also needs to be overhauled in order to expeditiously deliver justice.It is unfortunate that the investigating agencies be it the Police or the top most CBI, have been found lacking in discharging their duties. Its high time that they get awakened from their deep slumber to discharge their duties in a systematic manner.

Facing The Mattoos

The next day i.e. 18th October 2006, early in the morning I decided to gather some strength and call up Mattoo uncle and aunty. It was hard to face them. But I decided to give them a ring. When I called the voice at the other end told me that uncle was downstairs and asked me to call back after 5 minutes. But soon after my mobile rang, it was Shri Chaman Lal Mattoo...

As soon as I heard Mr. Mattoo's voice, my heart started pounding; it felt as if the world had shrunk on me and the time had stopped. Mr. Mattoo was deeply appreciative of the efforts of each and every individual, organization and, in particular, media. It was hard for both of us to weave our emotions into words. Mattoo uncle thanked me and told me to convey the same to our entire team. He said that he was very eager to talk to me after the verdict but failed establishing contact with me.

There was a lady behind who was insisting on speaking with me. Uncle handed over the phone to her, she was Rageshwariji (Priyadarshini's mother)...Very emotionally she thanked me like anything, more than that she blessed me and the whole group. I'm unable to translate her Kashmiri ex-pressions... I was touched...I could feel it very much that she was no doubt in pain of losing her dear child, but at the same time there was some sort of satisfaction and relief to her.

I could feel a bruised, yet relieved, heart pouring all the love and affection in the world on me. There's only so much a man can take. Tears flowing down and heart screaming I wanted to console her and convey her that it was their strong conviction that helped the case most but I couldn't utter a word....

Our Verdict
We at "Justice For Priyadarshini" firmly believe that the Priyadarshini Mattoo case fits into the category of "rarest of the rare" and hence the guilty should be awarded the death penalty.

Though there are philosophical reasons for being against death penalty, I think death penalty should be struck upon the culprit so that spoilt brats of power know that they are not above the law. It will set precedence and act as a deterrent.

All I can add to this is,I salute to thee,the initiator and all the people who actively stood up in favour of justice.I'm proud of all youngsters,me falling into the same category,as well as relieved that there is at least one soul that rests in peace!

1 comment:

Aditya Raj Kaul said...

Thanks Aakanksha for all the words of encouragement. I'm indeed thankfull to the entire civil socity for making the difference. Lets hope it continues...Just stumbled upon ur blog somehow through google. Again Thanks indeed.

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