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.
Priyadarshini was brutally raped and murdered on January 23, 1996 in broad daylight in a posh South Delhi locality by his senior, Santosh Kumar Singh, at the Law Faculty, Delhi University. The accused was son of a senior IPS officer.
In the verdict given by Additional Sessions Judge on December 3, 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 court'sverdict in the Delhi High Court in 2000.
On March 22, this year when I read an article of Shri C.L. Mattoo, Priyadarshini'sfather, 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 XIIth Board Examination in March when a private news channel contacted me for a story on my petition. The story was telecasted the next day. Later that day, the channel 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 you: Are you hopeful that justice will be done in the Mattoo case? After a brief gap. I replied, ?No, not at this moment.?
Later, another private news channel covered a story on my petition, and I was again invited for the evening live panel discussion.
Even though the case was on and off the media'sattention, 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 my friends and me 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 Shri C.L. Mattoo, Priyadarshini'sfather.
It was on May 4 that our small group comprising of that journalist friend, another of her friend and myself took the courage to meet Priyadarshini'sfather.
At the end of the meeting he asked me to continue my efforts. I assured him that day that I would do whatever I could in my capacity to get justice. The journalist girl with me was equally enthusiastic about this case.
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 July 23, which was Priyadarshini's34th 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'sbodies, 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. Even the faculty and students of the Law Faculty, Delhi University, where Priyadarshini used to study, joined this movement. Many other organisations raised their voice for this cause.
The entire country was eagerly awaiting the judgment, which was scheduled to come in the afternoon on October 17, 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'sface 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 offence 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. 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. 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. It is high time they got awakened from their deep slumber to discharge their duties in a systematic manner.
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 is awarded the death penalty.