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Gruesome Tales Of Murder

The book serves as a useful reminder that many of the cases that shocked our conscious could have been avoided by better vigilance

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An untimely death. A possibly salacious backstory. A population fed with relentless media coverage unfettered by the boundaries of facts. Every citizen a self-anointed judge.  

If you thought this was about the unfortunate death of actor Sridevi recently, or even Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Shashi Tharoor, a few years ago, think again. This could be said of the Nanavati case, which captivated the city of Bombay (as it then was) 70 years ago, helped not insubstantially by the frenzied coverage by gossip magazine Blitz, owned by Russi Karanjia, who was siding with his fellow-Parsi, Nanavati. Folklore goes that on the days of the trial, women would line the streets in support of the ‘murderer’; eventually, a jury finding him not guilty of murder. But this could also be about a dozen or so other gruesome murder cases in India over the last half century that became fodder for dinner table conversation for the rest of the country.

Senior Advocate Pinky Anand, presently Additional Solicitor General of the country, in her new book, Trials of Truth: India’s Landmark Criminal Cases, breaks some of them down for us. There is, of course, the Nirbhaya case, the gang-rape and murder of a young woman on Delhi streets (As Anand says, for once, we did not engage in victim shaming), the Tandoor murder, the Nithari killings, the gory list goes on.

Not all crimes are bloody. For example, the defamation cases, or the hounding of Tamil actress Khushboo for suggesting the use of contraceptives, and the role of civil society in bringing crimes to light have been addressed.

The book serves as a useful reminder that many of the cases that shocked our conscious could have been avoided by better vigilance. Long-time residents of Delhi might remember the Chopra children — teenagers who trusted a stranger by accepting a ride in his car, only to be kidnapped and later killed. But at least two witnesses heard the children cry for help, and alerted the authorities, who did nothing for a whole hour. At other times, it tells us how depraved society can get, with descriptions of the heinous acts of the Shinde sisters of Pune, presently awaiting the gallows, or the butcher of Nithari, Surendra Koli, both involving the spine-chilling killing of multiple children.
   
What author Anand does is, explain each case from the vantage point of a lawyer, but shorn of legalese. She presents each case in its most concise form, a capsule for the casual reader — facts, then analysis.

Occasionally, such as while dealing with the death penalty, she also explains the rationale for some contentious decisions. Perhaps one wishes she would have used her platform, and experience, to discuss, and disabuse, some of the popular prescriptions that accompany the dinner table conversations, such as castration as a punishment for rape, or making the death penalty more widespread. But that is probably asking for too much in an age where attention spans normally last the length of a tweet.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Abraham Mathews

Abraham Mathews, a former Businessworld journalist, is now an advocate, based in Delhi

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