Jury system in India
One does wonder, given the nature of the case whether a jury system would have helped. Will a jury system allows a greater chance of a fair verdict? Contemplating on it, Neelam Katara said, “I am quite happy with the verdict of the trial court and I have nothing against it. Since these people have money, lawyers get adjournment citing various reasons. Most importantly, the jury members are not beyond the perils of the society. If they influence someone on the jury then we will have another 13-14 people (the jury) to think about.”
Honour Killing and reasons for honour killing
Vikas Yadav and his allies decided to kill Nitish Katara because they couldn’t accept him falling in love with their sister Bharti – a classic case of honour killing in India and sadly not an incidence in isolation. Honour killing cases are rampant in India- rural as well as urban. In the rural India the daughter is killed whereas in the urban areas the man involved is killed, as in this case Nitish Katara. Citing some important pointers Mrs. Katara says, “A lot has to do with the right of female in our society – as to whether she has a say in choosing her lifestyle, life partner etc. The other predominant factor contributing to such murders is the caste system. In most cases the disagreement of accepting a relation comes from the caste difference in both families. Unfortunately, the electoral politics and politicians is not letting it go.” Caste system which was invented to segregate human kind on the basis of their economic and livelihood, exists till today in modern India even after 67 years of Independence. Today Mrs.Katara pains for not having taught her son about the caste based demarcations in the society. “We believed we had moved away and we did not teach our children about caste differences. We thought honour killing is something that happen in remote villages,” she says in retrospection. Sadly the Yadavs thought otherwise. Despite sending their daughter to the top management college in the city, they couldn’t accept her falling in love with somebody outside the community.
Corruption in the judiciary system
As she talks more about the case, the fact that the Nitish Katara murder case had many spin offs becomes clear and so does the corruptions in the system. Every now and then we see files go missing, witness turns hostile or get killed, lawyers bought off outside court room etc. When asked whether she dealt with any corruption in the judiciary system, she said, “The judges were very careful to see to it that files did not go missing. But I did face one problem - the public prosecutor wanted to drop off Bharti as a witness saying that she will only speak on behalf of her brother. “Woh agar court ko zarurat hogi to bula lega” (the court will call her if required) was what he said. Maybe he was compromised, but thankfully I got a private lawyer at this point.”
Media and the limelight
After Jessica Lal case, this was a widely covered case, so much so that the accused in their appeals said that their case was distorted due to the interference of the media. Katara's views on the same being, “when I saw Nitish's dead body for the first time,I could feel my feet turning to jelly. I was devastated, heartbroken and for a moment felt lost. But something happened inside me and I took a decision that I will get justice for my son. I felt I need to fight. If I don’t then these people and the likes of them will keep getting stronger in the society. From there on, it did not matter. I think it is very important to believe in what you are doing. Being in the limelight helped here and maybe this is why they called it a media trial. The fact that media kept the case in limelight did give me the support and necessary stimulus to keep going.” However Katara is sure that the verdict was not influenced because of the media.
Katara also believes that the young breed of reporters following the case could relate to the situation. “Initially, it was reported due to the politician, DP Yadav”, she says. “But later it was reported because I feel the people reporting on the ground at the time were young people and they immediately could identify with Nitish. More importantly, everyone is hassled with politicians and their muscle power and wants justice.”
Neelam Katara's greatest support in her struggle for Justice
After 12 long years, she feels that her “Greatest moral booster has been the fact that the people by and large have believed in me and in what I was doing” Recounting an instance, when she was going to the court and was in her car, which stopped at a traffic light, she said, “a man knocked on my window to ask, “ bhai ke pask main hoga na?”” She feels this identification of the people with Nitish is what has been a big support in such trying times.
Indian Judiciary system and the hope for the common man
“There is hope but we need a lot of changes. It is not easy for a common man. We also need a central investigation agency, apart from CBI, as there is in various other countries. The Police are responsible for law and order, investigation and VIP security et al and in most cases investigation goes for a toss. When there are not enough policemen to prevent a crime, how can they spare time to investigate properly?” asks Mrs. Katara. Incidentally she has a point. The number of policemen in India is just not enough. It is less than half of what the UN prescribes.
“Providing security for the VIP’s is not a function of the Police and it can be outsourced. Let the government pay but why not outsource?” questions Mrs.Katara. “Without these things it is a very difficult. You fight not only because you have lost your child but also because you don't want it to happen to other people. And the system of asking for justice should not be a discouraging process.”
The verdict on the appeal of stricter punishment to the culprits is still pending. In the meantime she has retired from her job. Even though most of her savings has gone in the fighting the case, the future seems a lot more tranquil. “I would love to help the underprivileged kids, who are very bright, very talented but miss out because they are not from a certain social background. But first I am waiting for the High Court verdict,” says Neelam Katara, mother of Nitish Katara, the boy who loved and lost his life.