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Friday, May 29, 2015

When justice fails the people

Shashikumar Selvam may have been a thief, but that does not mean he should be denied justice.
Shashikumar_grandmother_600The case of 20-year-old Shashikumar Selvam truly is a sad one. The young man was jailed 10 years for a petty crime. That is disproportionate enough to make us despair over the state of justice in this country. What is really shocking, though, is that he was jailed for stealing some rice and two cans of sardines. And now he lies buried, his body telling tales of some sort of violence that came before his death while the police regale all who would hear with tales of suicide.
I’m not condoning the act of thievery, but 10 years is an insane amount of time for jailing someone over a matter of rice and sardines, while we have rapists, murderers and corrupt individuals who walk free in broad daylight without a care in the world. We even let some of these rapists marry their victims, for goodness’ sake.
And now, this young man’s grandmother must represent him in her quest for justice, something that was denied her grandson once and must not be denied him again now that he rests six feet underground. Madam Sushilarani believes her grandson did not commit suicide in Kluang prison, but that there were heinous, inhuman acts behind his death, acts that could only have been committed by the most deplorable, malformed, disgusting dregs of mankind. Nevertheless, such acts have happened before to countless inmates under the loving, tender care of our police and prison officials.
Madam Sushilarani, who was allowed to view her grandson’s body only after much protest, found bruises on the body plus a toenail that looked like it was forcibly removed. Incredibly, the police claimed Shashikumar had hanged himself in his cell with his trousers — a cell too high for him to reach the ceiling and a pair of trousers too short to serve as a noose.
This is not the first time someone in police custody has died under suspicious circumstances, and it will not likely be the last.
However, justice and the law failed this young man, handing down a sentence on him that was far too heavy for his crime and then allowing him to die in a prison cell under the watchful eye of the authorities.
How many more deaths in police custody will it take before our men and women in blue are policed to ensure that there would be no more foul play? How many young men and women must undergo unfair jail sentences before our judges realise that such injustice will more likely deform than reform them?
A crime is a crime, and time must be served, but justice must be upheld at all times for there are far too many willing to abuse their positions of power.
Justice failed Shashikumar. He was a young man only trying to feed himself and a first time offender at that. The law failed him in the courts when a judicial decision robbed him of his time and youth, and again in a dank prison cell, leaving him with bruises and a forcibly removed toenail before his death. Enough is enough.
We can only hope that justice will be served if indeed evidence pinpoints foul play in Shashikumar’s death. Even if there wasn’t foul play involved, the authorities need to take a serious look at redesigning prison and lock-up cells to make suicide impossible. We cannot anymore let justice fail our people, including the crime-prone.

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