The court of the local magistrate of that little town was seldom as crowded as it was that day. However, this rare occurrence was justified, seeing as the trial scheduled to take place that morning revolved around cold blooded murder.
His Honour Judge Karan Singhania was presiding over the case. He was ambitious, and probably one of the youngest judges in the state .He was quickly gaining a reputation as a man with a no- nonsense brand of justice. His hearings were quick, and to the point. The son of the former Governor of the state, he was tipped by several of his peers to join the High Court. The accused was Mr. Nitin Sutaria, who had chosen Advocate Nikhil Arora to represent him , while the state was represented by Advocate Anuj Mehta. Mr. Sutaria had pled not guilty.
The trial had begun. The opening statements were made by the lawyers. Mr. Rohan Khanna was the first person to be summoned to the witness box. Advocate Anuj Mehta began,”Mr.Khanna, where were you between 8 and 9 P.M. on the 30th of September?”
“I was at a friend’s place, for my weekly game of poker.”
His alibi was confirmed, and his questioning resumed.
Advocate Mehta asked,”At what time did you leave?”
“Could you describe the sequence of events that occurred after you left? ”
“As I was walking towards my car, I saw a man emerge from the bungalow across the street. I recognized him as Abhishek Sharma, the anti-corruption crusader who has been in the news for his protest rallies. He is a friend of mine, and he must have been out for his post-dinner walk. The moment he stepped out, I saw a car start up from the far end of the street. The car was moving in our direction, and was accelerating quickly. Before I could realise what was going on, the car was upon us. It was headed toward Mr. Sharma, and it made contact with him, sending him flying through 20 feet ,and he landed with a sickening crunch. The car sped by, and I rushed toward my friend, and took him to the hospital. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t take down the license plate number of the car, as I worried about him.”
“Were you able to get a clear look at the driver of the car?”
“Yes,sir. As the car sped by, the light from a nearby lamp post hit him in the face. I recognized him as Mr. Sutaria, the dean of the local medical college, who is also the accused in this case.”
Murmurs broke through the crowd. As far as they were concerned,this case was all but over. However, the defense lawyer, Advocate Arora was unperturbed, as he still had his trump card to play. He refused to question the witness,taking everyone by surprise. and the next witness ,Mrs. Indira Singh was summoned .
Mr. Anuj Mehta began,”What can you tell us, Mrs. Singh?”
She said, ”Sir, I am a lecturer at the local medical college.A few days before the accident, I was waiting outside the dean’s office for a meeting, when I saw Abhishek Sharma barge into his office. They were arguing, and the argument was a heated one. From what I could make out, Mr. Sharma was accusing the dean of accepting bribes in exchange for admissions. He left after a while, and the dean emerged from his office, looking flustered, and uttered some disgusting cuss words.”
Advocate Arora again refused to question the witness, and was looking unquestionably calm.
Advocate Mehta addressed the judge,” Your Honour, after hearing the testimonies of these two witnesses, it is fair to say that this is a clear case of premeditated murder. Mr .Sutaria, fearing prosecution and a loss of reputation at the hands of Mr. Sharma, chose to take his life.”
Everybody in the court was whispering among themselves,and the judge was nodding. Finally, it was time to call upon the last witness, Mrs. Anjali Sutaria, the wife of the accused. Advocate Arora had been waiting for this moment. The day before, Mrs. Sutaria had agreed to testify that her husband was at home with her at the time of the murder. Her testimony would bring the case to a standstill, and the court would be adjourned. The case would be added to the enormous backlog, and would soon fade from public memory.
Mrs. Sutaria was summoned, and took her place in the witness box.
Advocate Mehta asked,”Mrs. Sutaria , was your husband with you at the time of the murder?”
The crowd held its breath, and Mr. Sutaria leaned forward in anticipation.
“No, he wasn’t”.
The sentencing was quick. Mr. Sutaria was sentenced to a life term, and was dragged away from court, all the time screaming,” She’s lying! I’m innocent!”The lawyers shook hands, both utterly perplexed at the turn of events.
Later that day, the first witness, Rohan Khanna was on the phone with someone.
“Didn’t I say we could pull this off?”,Khanna said.
“I was scared, man. Though you did great. I have wired the money to your account. Poor Sutaria, sentenced to life imprisonment.Can’t feel too sorry for him, though. It was my career on the line.Sharma had found evidence that I rigged judgements in exchange for bribes. It was necessary to kill Sharma, for the headline”Judge Karan Singhania convicted of bribery” wasn’t particularly enticing.”
Khanna said,” Just one question. How did you get his wife to change her testimony at the last moment?”
“Well, my friends don’t call me ‘The Tiger’ for nothing, you know.”