‘Tough to hide from kids that their dad’s in jail’

Times View

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - [email protected] times­group.com

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.

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