Draupadi

By The Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

The title may baffle you as to why I chose to name today’s discussion on a character from Hindu epic Mahabharata but some recent events have brought  forth a very uncomfortable fact about our society that has not changed since the day Draupadi was disrobed in court of Hastinapur. For those who don’t know, chief justice of India’s Supreme Court was accused of sexual assault by a former female employee, an investigation was conducted and he was subsequently cleared in the end but this whole episode brought forth a very uncomfortable and nauseating reality of how due procedure is thrown out of the window when the mighty and powerful are under the lens.

In India, Supreme Court and its judges are held in very high regard. This institution is considered sanctum sanctorum of Indian democracy and is the last door, under Indian law, you can knock for justice. The people who preside over these institutions are vested with exceptional powers so that they can guard the citizens against whims of power but what if the fingers are pointed at these guardians? Where are the checks and balances? Turns out, there are none. This is the most disturbing fact about this case, the absence of due process. Why the accusing woman was not allowed to have a lawyer? Why she was not given a copy of the final report? Why the proceedings weren’t video recorded? What happens to the woman now? If supreme judge is cleared of the charges levied against him, then did this woman made a false accusation? If this woman made a false accusation then why she is not punished? Why weren’t the Vishakha guidelines followed? These are some questions that are in mind of a lot of people like me? The intent is not to malign anyone but just ask question in a case where we are not seen to be doing justice. It’s a matter of faith in law of the land, the constitution and democracy? As a society, we owe this woman at least a fair and open hearing.

Draupadi was laughed at, molested, beaten and disrobed in front of the mightiest warriors of ancient India and nobody, except Vidura and Vikarna, dared to question the king. In the end, all the might of the Kuru clan, the piety of Bhishma, the stratagy and arrows of Drona and wickedness of Duryodhana, Dushasana and Shakuni did not save them from obliteration. Transparency, openness and moral high ground are the foundations on which the public faith in democratic institutions rest. The day these foundations shake will be the day our democracy will truly be in danger.

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