(The story is a work of fiction.
Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely intentional)
It was the last day of cross-examination of the List of Witnesses. As expected the room was crackling with activity. This was a high profile case involving an actor, a very famous one at that, who had a propensity to discard his clothing at the slightest of provocations.
The crowd kept checking me out. I kept my calm and continued to run at a steady pace.
Fourth Estates were the earliest to arrive and they were chattering away, showing off their gadgets that they seemed to have purchased recently.
The victim and her herd came next. Doe-eyed alright, lush lashes now droopy, the wet nose laboring each breath. She limped, her right rear leg pulled up to form an angle at its joints. The rest of the herd settled in the gallery while she hobbled to join the prosecutor at his bench. Her kid was seen whimpering, arching the head to see the mother through the barricade.
Then, the famous accused made an entrance amidst whistles and adoration. The police walked behind him in reverence, at a distance that assured them of their spotlight in the media. Cameras went berserk until the point where they were allowed.
Presently entered the Honorable Judge and made himself comfortable.
I was suddenly smitten by something on his wrist.
A Rado. What a beauty! Thin as a razor, bejeweled crown! Oh My!
Surprised, I never saw the Judge wear this before. So far all he wore were garden variety watches. My ogling was interrupted by the strike of the gavel.
The accused smiled at the Judge and ‘namaste’ed. The Judge returned his greetings with the familiarity of a friend. The prosecutor was all teeth and gum when he saw the accused.
There was an air of bonhomie in the court, that happened when people with a common cause meet. Only the victim and her herd wore a sullen face, dampening the mood of the otherwise sprightly occasion, it seemed.
When I donged 10 o ‘clock, the court was brought to order and the case stated.
The list of the witnesses was to be examined today.
The Prosecutor gave out an impression of a man who could not care less about morality. At his hands, the victim was as good as dead, I thought. But who was I to judge?
He spoke, the noncommitted prosecutor.
The famous actor of Follywood, One Mr. Al Man, had been accused of shooting the victim, Chinnu the Chinkara.
The victim, unfortunately (for the prosecution), had been alive and had come running, ermm…..limping, to the nearest police station demanding justice. The police had not filed an FIR right away, I understood.
When there were murders and robberies galore, why take a complaint of a Chinkara seriously? Their hesitation was justified, felt the Judge.
When victim flashed her ‘endangered card’, the reluctant police had filed the case. After all, it was a non-bailable and cognizable offense to shoot a dwindling species.
Suddenly, a journalist of national repute turned unruly, yelled
‘What is endangered?.
He said he had the facts. The real facts. He brandished a roll of papers. There were 7000 Chinkaras in the wild and a few hundred, captive.
‘Do you know what was endangered?’ he dared the Prosecutor, the Judge, the defense counsel and the world in general, to answer.
Our hero, Al Man, he declared.
‘He was one of the kind, rarest of rare. The most endangered.’
Then he went on to describe the accused’s acting prowess and charitable tendencies. After some initial hesitation, I saw the journalist being forcibly removed from the room. He kept screaming unintelligible argument, interspersing his speech with ‘The nation wants to know’.
After the scene, the court was brought to order.
The Judge looked at me. When he saw I did not move beyond 11, he thought it was a good idea to waste the state’s coffers by recapping the whole case.
The prosecutor began.
On February 31, 1998, the accused and his coterie had been shooting at the arid plains of Thar.
The defense lawyer stood up, sweeping his back gown in a grand manner, thereby, unsettling decades worth of dust from the furniture.
‘I object to the contrived indication that my client went for a shoot. He was, in fact, shooting for his upcoming film, We, Idiots.’, he growled and continued
‘My client and his friends decided they would have a picnic. Just a picnic, the kind with the wicker basket, dainty cucumber sandwiches and crumbly scones. Nothing remotely indicative of an intention to kill a Chinkara. It was not premeditated’.
‘My client did not know that an innocuous double barrel gun was in the vehicle either. It had been proved that the gun did not belong to my client. Hence though the shot was taken by my client, he was innocent because he did not own the gun.’
After a breathless monologue, the defense lawyer slumped on his chair, dramatically.
I continued my work, observing and ticking, amazed at the total lack of apathy for the victim and her herd.
I could see her hind leg was bothering her. There was a gaping one-inch wound there. From time to time, she was craning to look at her kid, who was restless and scuttled around in the gallery.
I knew the prosecutor was fighting a losing case or was he fighting to lose the case?
Don’t ask me how I knew. I just knew. I knew the Judge with the new Rado had been bought, I knew the media had fallen for ratings and money. I just knew. I have been here for eternity to know the ways of the Universe.
The prosecutor continued.
The victim had claimed that she was shot by the accused, Mr Al man while grazing in the plains.
‘Though there were many who saw the incident’, the prosecutor faked a whine, ‘everyone in the list of witnesses had turned hostile or withdrew their statement. Only one witness remained and that was Chinnu’s kid.’
I saw a frail kid, Chinnu Chinkara’s kid I presumed, brought to the witness seat. He tried to wriggle his way out to his mommy, but the police knew their job and restrained him effectively. No amount bawling melted their heart. After all, they had a law to uphold, come what might.
The prosecutor questioned him first, ‘ Are you Chinnu’s kid?
Yes, the kid nodded.
‘What was your observation on the 31 of February 1998, when you claim you saw an attempted murder?’, the persecution put all his lawyer’s skill to work.
‘I was with my mummy. This uncle pointed a big gun at me. I was scared. I stood frozen. Just when I heard the gun go, my mom jumped in front of me. She was hurt, my mom’ the kid voice quivered.
It was defense counsel’s turn to cross-examine the kid.
The lawyer moved closer to the kid and took an intimidating pose, ‘What was my client doing when you saw him?’
‘He was pointing the gun at me’, The kid answered.
‘How do you know he was pointing it at you? Did you have access to the viewfinder of the gun?’, came back a rebuttal.
The kid was confused.
The lawyer turned to the Judge and said, ‘My client says he was practicing target hitting which was required for a scene in his upcoming movie and was aiming for the tree. The herd had been unfortunately grazing there ’
‘Go on, then. What happened?’, he turned to the kid egged him to continue. I could see the defense lawyer laying his trap.
‘When I heard a bang, my mom jumped in front of me’, the kid replied in all innocence.
The smile that comes when a job was well done, crept across the lips of the defense lawyer.
‘Right from the horse’s..Sorry, gazelle’s mouth.’ The defense lawyer screamed in excitement. ‘It was the victim who jumped in front of the trajectory of the bullet and it was not my client who aimed at the victim. Hence it is proved beyond doubt that it is a clear case of attempted suicide.’
The prosecutor threw up his hands in helplessness. He had tried his best.
The Judge, I noticed, contemplated, pondered and deliberated the case with fullest of his capacity. The argument was foolproof, indeed. It was a case of attempted suicide.
The honorable Judge, after reprimanding Chinnu for trying to thwart the course of law, requested the police to detain her and take into cognizance the new information that had cropped up.
Her kid was inconsolable, not understanding why his mother was being taken away, not understanding he had unwittingly indicated her.
Meanwhile I moved on. The world around me moved on. All moved on except the wounded mother and the traumatized kid.
If anyone finds the story absurd, then the writer requests them to take a look at the ‘hinted case’. It’s much more hilarious.
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
Indian Penal Code, 1860.
All are equal, Some are more equal Act , 1000 BC.
This is an entry for #TheTrial, a Claws Club exclusive event for #Legends-4.
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Check out Sarveswari’s space here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/2019/04/13/time-will-tell/