Priyadarshini Mattoo – Ray of hope

Priyadarshini, which means beautiful to look at, has become a ray of hope today for millions of Indians. Unfortunately, and regretfully, she is not there amongst us today to see how she has influenced our lives, and given a ray of hope to all of us. A ray of light in the dark and murky+ Judiciary Sytem of India. She has reinstated our faith to a great extent on the strength of democracy, public opinion, and made us believe for once that justice might be delayed, but not always denied.

Priyadarshini left this cruel world on 23rd January, 1996, at an age of 22, when most of us really begin to ‘live’ in the truest sense of the word. She was a brilliant law student in the 3rd year at Delhi University, when she was found brutally raped and murdered at her home on that fateful day. She had been raped, injured 14 times with a motorcycle helmet, and finally strangled with a wire. It was worse than the actions of the wildest of beasts.

The culprit was Santsoh Singh, the son of an IPS officer, and her senior in college, who had been stalking her for quite some time. He was arrested and tried for 3 years, before he was acquited by Additional Sessions Judge J.P. Thareja in 1999. Thareja said that though he knew that “he is the man who committed the crime,” he was forced to acquit Santosh, giving him the benefit of doubt. The judge blamed it on the poor investigation and inaction of the Delhi Police, as the accused’s father was then the second in command of the police forces in Delhi.

This came as a shock to all and sundry, and there was a national outcry against the judgement. The case was then handed over to the CBI, who filed a case against the previous judgement in the Delhi High Court. The CBI’s efforts proved fruitful finally in 2006, when on the 17th october the High Court found the accused guilty, and sentenced him to death on the 30th of the same month. The High Court decision was widely perceived in India as a landmark reversal and a measure of the force of media pressure in a democratic setup.

This victory was not only unprecedented for Priyadarshini’s ailing father, but for the whole nation as well. Public opinion and protests had played an important role in this victory. It also showed that Justice is awarded, albeit with much fight and struggle.

Priyadarshini lighted many lamps of hope in the dark Indian system, in our hearts, but in doing so, she had to sacrifice her life. Priyadarshini, you will forever be alive in our hearts and minds, and the lamps that you have lighted will continue to show the way to many others suffering from this archaic justice system.

To the departed souls of Jessica Lal and Nitsh Katara, who have also been victims of this justice system more than the victims of their high profile murderers – “You will be served shortly, now we are wide awake. Please have faith and hope.”

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