ArTales Legends- 4

The Gavel’s Tort Read and rate this story.

The title of the story above is giving away my identity already, but for the uninitiated, I am what the layman calls Kanoon ka Hathoda. I am the ceremonial mallet commonly made of hardwood and typically fashioned with a handle. I am used in the courts of law throughout the world.

I am actively involved in all the court proceedings, irrespective of the cases. I order the court. I make sure the decorum during the sessions is maintained. I rule the law. There can be no stationery, no benches, no chair, no witnesses even, but no court verdict is complete without me. I seal the judgements given out by the judges. Poetically speaking, I seal peoples’ fate.

I have seen it all. The weirdest of cases, the silliest of them, the drama that goes inside a courtroom. It is frenzy at times – the name calling, the emotional pathos, the arguments and counter arguments (however illogical) – I have witnessed the crazy.

I have always sought immense pride in my existence, being the alpha amongst all the other court room objects. Until that day.

It was a routine day, however a little different owing to the fact that, the case announced was of serious in nature.

The bench clerk summoned the stakeholders. The public prosecutor was Mr. Hangal, a frail old man whom I knew spent his life abiding by the law. He was very honest and was known to give it all when fighting for a case. I also heard he didn’t charge a single penny for those who genuinely couldn’t afford fighting when appointed as the counsel.

The plaintiff was a teenage girl, scared and wary of her surroundings, seated beside another old man, her father maybe.

The defence lawyer was Mr. Thakral, a man whose reputation preceded him. His time was expensive, so were his words. They had to be paid for dearly. That man however did know how to twist and turn facts to his advantage. Next to him seated his client, a young man, in his early thirties.

Mr. Shukla was the judge for this particular case. Oh, how I loved him! He always went by the rulebook, a complete no-nonsense fellow. He had handled me the most and together we had made our mark in a few landmark judgements.

After being courtsied by both the parties and their respective lawyers, he asked to proceed with the trial.

Mr. Hangal commenced, “Your Honour, Mr. Satya Thakur, is accused of abduction rape of Ms Lalita. Mr. Thakur took due advantage of the fact that he is the landlord of the farm on which Lalita’s father toils and so committed the crime thinking of her as an easy target.”

I hereby request the court to punish the accused under section 375 of IPC and render him the highest sentence of life imprisonment. I would like to call Ms. Lalita to the witness box.”

The girl looked baffled, she got up and didn’t know where to go next. The lady constable escorted her to the witness box.

“Lalita ji, I will ask you a few questions now and I would like you to answer them truthfully. We are under the Law’s watchful eyes and you do not have to be scared of anyone.” Mr. Hangal said in an assuring manner and I think that scared the girl more. Nevertheless, he went ahead with the questioning.

“Lalita ji, could you tell us what happened in the wee morning hours of 2nd March, 2013?”

“I had gone to the field at 5 am with my friends. They dispersed and I was walking back home alone when I saw him passing by in his jeep. Seeing me alone, he turned the vehicle and pulled me inside and took me to a bambi in his field. I tried to rescue myself, shouted for help but the beast violated me!! I fought, but I couldn’t save myself.” And with that she broke down.

Mr. Hangal tried to calm her down and asked her to go back to her seat.

“Your Honour, in my support I have presented the reports of Ms. Lalita’s medical checkup from the day of the incident and the reports testify her claim.”

If I could, I would have walked and banged myself into Thakur’s head till the time he bled. I could tell from his expressions that he did it, but somehow, he had an air of arrogance to him, he thought he could walk scot free. But no Mr, not in the court where I preside.You will be shown to your gallows in just a few minutes!

Mr. Thakral intervened “I would like to cross-question Ms. Lalita.”

Judge Shukla granted his permission.

The girl was back. I could sense that she was hating it to be a spectacle in the court. As if losing her dignity wasn’t bad enough that now both the lawyers wanted her to go through the horrendous incident over and over again.

“Lalita ji, oho, chupchup, ye lijiye rumaal. Now, please answer my questions”

“Lalita ji, how do you know Mr. Thakur?”

“He owns the land where my baba works as a labourer”

“Have you ever met him before 2nd March, 2013?”

“Yes. In his fields”

“Can you describe your meetings?”

“There is a small orchard besides Mr. Thakur’s fields where Muli, Palak and Methi is grown. I sometimes used to go there through his fields to pluck the vegetables. I crossed paths with him then”

“Did you talk to each other?”

“Yes. No. He would ask me to not go through his fields”

“And you still entered his field in the wee morning hours of 2nd March, 2013?”

“Yes, but I…..”

“Point to be noted Your honour. In spite of several requests by my client to not enter his fields, Ms Lalita continued with her offence of trespassing Mr. Thakur’s property. This accusation is just a sham to prevent any legal reprimanding against her.”

“Objection, Your Honour” Mr. Hangal opposed, “What my colleague is trying to get at is totally absurd. The said rape did take place and the heinous crime was indeed committed by Mr. Thakur. I would like to present a witness who can concur the same”

“Permission granted” Judge Shukla said.

Although Mr. Thakral tried his best to give a new angle to the case altogether, this witness was the one everyone was rooting on. Mr. Hangal, this one better be your master stroke. And she walked in, middle aged female, all eyes were on her. I think she realised that too and was cautious about it.

“Your honour, this is Dr.Sharma who performed the preliminary medical tests on Ms. Lalita on the day of the incident. Dr.Sharma, please walk yourself to the witness box”

“Where is the witness box?”.

Now, this is the problem with the people who visit the court for the first time. Their notion of courtrooms is glamorised, thanks to the movies, and they expect nothing less of huge halls filled with people and witness boxes right out of the movie sets. Dr. Sharma was no exception, but at the moment I wanted her to testify against Thakur.

“Please walk yourself towards this podium Dr. Sharma” Mr. Hangal guided her and began with his questions.

“Dr. Sharma, please introduce yourself to the court”

“I am Dr. Sharma and I work at the government hospital situated in the town”

“Do you recognise Ms. Lalita?”

“Yes, Sir. She was brought in for medical examination by ASHA worker Meena.”

“And when exactly was that?”

“The morning of 2nd March, 2013.”

“Could you please describe to the court the condition in which she was brought and also throw some light on your findings?”

“Lalita was in a state of shock. She was in tattered clothes and had wound marks on her arms and legs. Her lips and neck were severely bruised. The swab test showed presence of semen in her vagina and it was evident that she was forced upon”.

I could see that she was clearly uncomfortable giving out the details in such an explicit manner.

“That will be all Your Honour”

Dr.Sharma had contributed positively and her account as a witness was sure to go against Thakur. But I was happy too early.

“Permission to cross examine Your Honour” Mr. Thakral said, Judge Shukla conceded.

“Dr. Sharma, you must be pretty overworked being employed at the government hospital in town. Any particular reason that, of all the patients that you encounter on a daily basis, you remember Ms. Lalita vividly?”

“I was on the night duty on 1st of March, 2013 and was asked to fill in for my colleague for the next shift since she called in sick. An aberration that did not happen often. It was during that morning shift that she had come in for the medical examination. Which is why I remember her clearly”

“I see, very well. Now tell me Dr. Sharma, did you conduct the *PV test as the protocol demands for patients who come in for a medical examination for rape? What were your findings”

With this question, everyone could see the nervousness ridden with shame on Dr.Sharma’s face.

“We are waiting for your answer Dr. Sharma”

“Sir, I have mentioned my findings in the report”

“You certainly have, but the court would like to hear it from you”

She stood there, unperturbed, not knowing what and how to answer the question.

“Let me help you. Are these your signatures on the report Dr. Sharma”

“Yes”

“So, the report here says that PV test was conducted. And your findings say quote ‘two fingers entered without any resistance’ unquote”

“Yes, but that is a common finding. It can be a case with a person who has not been raped as well”

“So, you do agree at the possibility that Ms. Lalita may not be raped and this could be the condition of her vagina, normally?”

“Yes”

“That will be all Dr. Sharma. You may leave”

“Your Honour, I would ascertain the fact that my client Mr. Thakur has been accused of a crime he hasn’t committed. There is no concrete evidence that the crime was even committed, except for a medical test report wherein the doctor herself has hinted at the possibility of otherwise. Hence, I request the court to give its verdict to best of its capabilities considering all the facts presented”

Mr. Hangal certainly wasn’t expecting this. I could see he was perplexed and didn’t have a counter argument. Now I relied completely on Judge Shukla, I knew he was a man who lived by rulebook, but this one time I wanted him to trust his instincts. But he looked helpless too. I could sense his reluctance when he read out,

“The court has not had a concrete evidence against the accused Mr. Thakur in this case. Also, the witness presented in the form of medical examination report doesn’t prove the crime. Hence, the court acquits Mr. Thakur” And bang, Judge Shukla made it official with my voice.

Mr. Thakur and Mr. Thakral had a victory handshake. While walking out, I could see Thakur sneer at the girl and her father. She shuddered and slumped further into the bench. Her father helped her up and she looked at the Judge’s chair. I felt her glaring straight at me. It was that moment, that I realised my tort. I had let her down, served her injustice, sealed her fate in the worst way possible.

Will she be able to overcome the trauma? Will she able to lead a normal life hereon? Will Thakur avenge her audacity to drag him to the court? My head was marred by several questions to which I will never have answers. I was now going plagued with her piercing glances at me, reminding me of my wrongdoing for the rest of my life.

Word Count: 1973 excluding title

GLOSSARY:

Kanoon Ka Hathoda: The Law’s Hammer

Bambi: In vast fields of Punjab and Haryana, there is a room constructed to house the water pump, called bambi in local language. The room is large enough to house a bed and usually is used by caretakers of the fields.

Chup, chup. Ye lijiye rumaal: Please be quiet. Here’s a hankerchief.

IPC: Indian Penal Code

Section 375: Section pertaining to rape laws

Author’s Note:

  1. *PV test: Per Vagina or 2- finger test is conducted on a rape victim. In this test, two fingers of an adult (doctor who conducts the medical examination of the rape victim)are inserted in the vagina of a female. If the two fingers of the doctor easily penetrate the vagina of a woman, then it is concluded that the rape victim is habitual of having sexual intercourse and vice versa is concluded if the two fingers do not penetrate, or penetrate with difficulty. This test is also done to determine the extent of damage caused to genitalia of a woman.
  2. This story is inspired from a true account of a doctor’s experience when she was testifying in a rape case. The instance went viral on Facebook sometime in 2013 when there was a huge hue and cry over banning the 2-finger test as it violates the dignity of the rape victim and many a times is only beneficial to the accused. (as in this case)
  3. The Supreme Court, finally banned the 2-finger test in addition to the several amendments made to the rape laws of the country following the barbaric Nirbhaya Case. But in some states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh the test is still conducted.

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This is an entry for #TheTrial, a Claws Club exclusive event for #Legends-4.
Check out event guidelines here: https://artoonsinn.com/artalelegends4/

Check out Pranita’s space here: https://artoonsinn.com/author/pranita-bhagat/

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