‘Tough to hide from kids that their dad’s in jail’
Agra: With 40-year-old interior designer Pankaj Sharma having to spend 13 years and six months in jail for “murdering” his brother-inlaw Lalit Parashar, his family’s ordeal was immense.
The Allahabad high court this week set aside a sessions court’s 2009 order and acquitted Sharma, by saying the prosecution failed to establish that it was a case of murder, not suicide.
His family claimed that Lalit Parashar had committed suicide after his wife Shashi refused to go back to him, while the police booked Sharma and seven of his relatives for his murder.
While Sharma’s family members got bail in the next few months, he remained in jail as he was named the prime accused.
Asked about how Sharma spent all these years in jail, his wife Preeti said, “I don’t know. But every time we visited him in jail, he would say one thing, ‘ Even enemies should not be in prison’.”
The family lost the case in 2009. The sessions court sentenced seven of them to life imprisonment, but kept the jail term of the other This
case highlights the enormous price we pay for a justice system that is so clogged that delays are endemic. A man losing 13.5 years of the prime of his life to what ultimately proved a wrong judgment is tragic. As is said, it is better that several guilty people escape punishment than that one innocent is wrongly punished. Obviously we need to ensure much speedier justice to avoid such situations. But we also need a system of compensation by the state for those wrongly incarcerated. True, no amount of monetary compensation can restore the years lost in prison, but they can go some way towards mitigating the damage and signaling the remorse of society for a wrong done.
family members in suspension till their appeal was heard in the high court.
Sharma was to remain in jail. His father with his other two sons got back to their interior designing business. The joint family had to sell their bungalow in Agra’s RK Puram and move to a humble rented accommodation to be able to bear the legal cost.
Sharma was just 27-yearold then. His wife told their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and 15 months old son that their dad had gone out of the country.
“It was not possible for us to live in the same locality. Besides, it was very difficult for me to keep our children away from the fact that their father was in jail,” she said. She started private tuition to children in the new locality.
“My family took care of us. But it was demeaning for me to go and ask them for everything,” Preeti further stated.
In 2007, the couple’s son was in hospital for jaundice for more than a month. Pankaj was informed and he became restless. In one of the prison visits, he told his wife that she should tell the children the truth and bring them to jail to visit him once every month.
“It was the toughest task but the children showed maturity as we told them everything. It felt as if they had grown up overnight,” she said. “They told their friends that their father worked in Goa to avoid the embarrassment,” she added.
The couple’s daughter is now in class XI while the son is in class IX.