Conflict of interest

courtroom-drama-1It was a dull noon and the court room was packed to its capacity. From my seat at the distant corner, i could clearly see the accused. Somewhere in his early thirties, he had an athletic frame and a rugged profile, with his week old stubble adding to the ardour of gloom enveloping him. I thought he was handsome, quite too handsome for a convict pressed with charges of murder. Though it was certain that he was to walk free.

The prosecution did not press any charges and the defence, the state attorney pleaded self-defence. The incident was still fresh in our minds and had obtained good media coverage. It was a weekend about a fortnight before, and in the middle of a bustling mall, he had shot a man wrapped in explosives. Over a hundred lives were saved at the cost of one. And the man standing in the convict’s pit rose to immediate fandom.

The trial was brief. Almost a formality. The defence argued self-defence under Section 96-106, quoting ‘right to private defence of the body of his own and the body of any other person’. The prosecution made some preliminary probing as to from where he had got his gun and if he had a license. Which he did have. And the prosecution had rest their case. The defence also did like-wise. But it was a queer thing that the judge had a quizzical look.

Instead of breaking session to write his judgement, he thought better to ask the convict a question. Now it’s not a common thing for a judge to adorn the lawyer’s cape of posing questions, but it seems it’s a lawful thing. Before anyone could raise a brow, the judge stated that as per The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Section 165, the judge has the power to put     questions. The judge said, ‘the accused had shot the bomber saving lives of many. The shot was fired moments after the bomber revealed his identity by unzipping his jacket in the crowded mall. And the bullet hit the bomber, piercing holes into his lungs that filled with blood and knocked him down in seconds. But as the post-mortem report states, the bullets entered the victim from his back. How did the accused realise that it was a bomber when the bomb-vest was visible only from the unzipped front portion of his jacket and the shooting occurred within moments such that the bomber did not have any time to turn over for the accused to see the explosives?’

There was an audible gasp in the court room. And i was glad none realised that the loudest was mine. The accused though remained silent. This was something unsettling through-out. This man had shot someone who was going to take lives of many. He saved lives. But why is he so gloomy about it all? As if his soul was stricken with the weight of a suffering untold.

The accused maintained his silence. He could very well have kept so. Under Section 121 to 131, the accused has the right to refuse answer, and the judge would have brushed away his curiosity as an imaginary quirk and closed the case, but the accused spoke. But before that, his eyes loomed over the room, and for a brief moment caught mine. And i could see pain in those deep dark eyes as i felt in my own. Pain i so long had forgotten about, and only then did i realise that my eye’s were watering in torrents as just a moment latter did the accused’.

The accused sobbed to the surprise of all. It wasn’t making sense. And then he said things we all found difficult to place in context. He said it was pre-meditated. That he had intended to kill the bomber, the victim, and with that intention he had been romping the city for days. And the moment he caught sight of him that day at the mall, his hand reached for the pistol he had kept in his canister and almost involuntarily, in a blind rage, bullets fired to bore holes into his body.

My breath became heavy, eyes blurry and my tears tuned in with a dull aching sob that betrayed the pain in my heart. But the pain in the heart of the accused was very palpable. This victim had come into his life, allegedly stole his love interest, and not able to accept the fact, convinced that the man had somehow bewitched his lady love, flaming in rage he had gone about on his hunt to track him down and put him to death, as he indeed succeeded to on the fateful day.

The lawyers blinked in amazement at the turn of event, and the judge shifted uneasily in his seat. This man, going by the media hype, the god-sent saviour, who could have walked scot-free, had conscience-stricken confessed. A confession that none demanded. And one which none could have figured for all practical possibility. But given he had made the court aware of his motives, the judge, despite not wanting to, had to consider the case in the light of new evidence, of the aforementioned founded motive, and the intent to cause grievous harm resulting in death. He was put in a position to declare the murderer, a saviour, as a murder per se, though a saviour nevertheless.

The judge picked his pen to write his judgement. There was a hush in the court that none had foreseen. Each has a bedazzled look, as apprehensive as amused. But the sense of unreality was looming at large upon every face. For their reality had been shaken. Something that they had so far believed as the case to be, and as the only case that could indeed be, had been undone and the re-interpretation was a difficult version to put up with. Their hero had been reduced to a mere murderer.

But his murder consequented good. A huge good to many. Shouldn’t he be awarded for it? Does the fact that he didn’t intend the good diminish in any way the good that indeed he had consequented? Why does the action, which thus far had seemed just, seem otherwise at face of his new-found intent? Is it possible to divorce his intent from his action? Can his action be rewarded while his intent punished? Should he be forgiven in good faith? Or, he intended and consequented a crime in its own right and thus, stood guilty? The questions in the minds of all were many, but my mind was blank. And my heart, a gripping agony. An agony, that only his eyes saw. His deep dark eyes, that searched for an apology.

I couldn’t stand it any longer. I stood, and left the court-room. But my legs couldn’t carry me far. I stumbled and sat by the stairs, far from that room, far enough to not hear any judgement that would be made. And far from his searching gaze, that man, the saviour, but in my eyes, the murderer, who killed my husband in cold vein, who just couldn’t accept that i had fallen out of love with him. And this man that i fell for, though, now it seems, happened to be fallen too, in spirit as too as now in body.