“Order! Order!” boomed the judge’s voice and there was complete silence in the court. “After hearing both the sides, the prosecution and the defence, this court has come to its conclusion. Neha and Smriti have accused Mihan and his two friends, Joseph and Suaan, of molestation and sexual assault. After hearing the case and carefully examining the evidences given to substantiate the charges, the court has come to the conclusion that Neha and Smriti have levelled false allegations against the boys. There are enough evidences to establish that Mihan, Joseph and Suaan were attending a workshop, about a hundred kms away, at the time of the alleged crime. All three of them belong to highly respectable families and the court absolves them of all the charges levelled against them and warns Neha and Smriti to not tarnish others’ images in society. The court is adjourned.”
Ishwar and Usman sat there like stones. They had no courage to look at their daughters, Neha and Smriti, who sat with their mothers on the same bench. Justice was denied to their girls and the boys committing such heinous crime, were allowed to go scot free. Mihan was the son of a cabinet minister and his father left no stone unturned to save his son. The defence lawyer was a very well known criminal lawyer of the country, and Ishwar’s colleague for the past so many years.
Ishwar and Usman were childhood friends. They were neighbours and were almost inseparable. They had a lot in common. Both were very hard working, intelligent and ambitious. Both would aim for only the first position and nothing less. Ishwar had chosen to study Law and Usman, Medicine. Both passed out from top colleges with top ranks and entered their respective professions, aiming for the sky. Their fierce ambition had dulled their emotional and humane senses to a large extent. For Ishwar, his job was to take any case that paid him handsomely and win it, using every possible technicality that Law could offer. Many a times, proofs would be tampered with, witnesses bought, convincing falsehood would be created to dare the truth and Ishwar would leave no stones unturned, to win the case for his client. For him Law and Justice need not go together. So he had no qualms in fighting cases for even the hard core criminals and fraudsters who paid him exorbitantly. His wife, Ratna, would at times question his ethics but he was very sure while retorting back that Law only is used to prove a case right or wrong, nothing else. Ratna knowing his stubbornness, knew it better to leave him with his beliefs. In no time, Ishwar became the highest paid criminal lawyer of the country.
Usman, on the other hand, became a slave in the hands of Greed too. He would suggest unnecessary procedures and tests to his patients and increase their bills manifold. His consultation and surgical charges were also very steep and the paying capacity of patients did not affect him much. He too was only interested in minting as much money as possible and he too turned a deaf ear to his wife Nima’s warnings of a dying conscience. Their sharp minds helped both in doing well at work. Usman too had established himself as a very well renowned, though a very expensive, surgeon.
Both the friends had a daughter each; Neha and Smriti. Like their fathers, both the girls too were best of friends.They had just graduated and had secured admission in one of the Ivy League Colleges. They were to leave in a month’s time and they were now meeting up all their friends and having a great time before that. One evening they had gone to attend a friend’s birthday party in a five star hotel. The party went on till late. Much as Neha and Smriti tried, they could not leave the party. After midnight when they were leaving, they went to the rest room. The lobby was pretty deserted and loud music was blaring in a banquet hall next to the rest rooms. As the girls were crossing the banquet hall, suddenly the door opened and two boys, completely drunk, came out. They held the girls by their hands and before they could realise, pulled them in. There were in all three boys, all drunk and out of their senses. They were all well-built, and much as the girls tried to escape, they were molested and sexually assaulted. The loud music drowned their screams and no one came to the rescue of the girls. After a while the boys, realizing the brutality of their act, scampered out and hurried away. Neha and Smriti, somehow managed to walk out of the hall and to the reception where half crying they demanded to call for the police. The police came and an FIR was registered against the three boys.
Neha had seen Mihan in her college where he had once come to judge an event in the college festival. She knew that he was the son of a minister. She gave his name in the FIR. Immediately the police station-in-charge stopped writing. By then both Ishwar and Usman reached there and were stunned to see the plight of their daughters. Both the fathers broke down. Ishwar was the first to get hold of himself and take charge of the situation. He saw to it that a proper F.I.R. was lodged. There followed the normal procedures of medical examinations, narrating the details numerous times to different people. The girls had to remain in the hospital for a week before they were fit enough to go home. The lives of two families had turned completely upside down. Both Ishwar and Usman did not know how to deal with the situation, properly.
Ishwar could not bring himself up to fight the case for these two girls. How could he face the cheap onslaught of the defence? He himself had faught several such cases before, and knew too well how the defence rips the victim apart by its jibes, and vulgar insinuations. He just would not be able to take it! The prosecution was a very senior and respected lawyer and Ishwar put all his faith in him. He was not prepared to see the defence lawyer, pleading for the boys though. He was his own colleague and friend, who he had worked with, for the past so many years. Like him, he too was a very well-known criminal lawyer. The power of money had easily won over years of familiarity. Now true to his reputation of not failing his clients, the defence lawyer, through false evidences, technically convinced the court that the accused were elsewhere, almost a hundred kilometers away from the spot of the crime. The court pronounced the boys free of charge and justice was denied to both the girls.
Ishwar did not know what to do. All that he had practised all these years for others, had hit him now. He could not bear to look at his daughter. Suddenly, Usman sitting next to him, fell from his chair. His tongue was hanging out and he could not speak. He was rushed to the hospital where on examination, the doctors said that he had had a massive stroke. Usman remained in the hospital for a long time but still could not quite recover. He was paralysed completely. After around two months he was brought home, where he spent his remaining life, on bed.
No one knew where Ishwar went from the court, that day. He never came back. A year later, one day Mihan got shot from a point blank range, during his morning walk. He succumbed to the injury before he could reach the hospital. The whole police department, could not find any trace of the killer. Twenty years later, Ratna on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath, saw a sadhu sitting near a small cave. He had very long hair and beard and he was sitting there with his eyes closed, in meditation. He looked familiar. She kept staring at him for a while and then suddenly a shiver ran down her spine. She cried out, “Ishwar, Ishwar.” There was no response from the sadhu. Ratna kept on calling out, “Ishwar, Ishwar!” Then some small shop owner close by came to her and said,
“Madam, do you know him?”
“Who is he?” cried Ratna.
“ No one knows, who he is. He has been sitting here, meditating for the last ten years. No one has seen him move. Do you know him, madam?”asked the shopkeeper.
Ratna sat there motionless. Did she know him?