Out of jail yet again – Is serial offender Salman Khan above the law?

Published: April 7, 2018
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Khan will probably bring to bear all his influence – monetary and coercive – to alter the investigation and ensure his appeal gets him a “not guilty” verdict. PHOTO: ANI

There is no doubt Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has a larger than life persona. Very few people in India are ambivalent about him. They either love, adore, and worship him, or they absolutely detest him.

Like every other individual, he is complex and probably has multiple facets to his character. The grapevine is filled with stories of his viciousness and callousness, but at the same time, tales of his generosity and large-heartedness have acquired an almost legendary status.

Interestingly, all of these aspects are incidental to his acting prowess, which ideally ought to be the most significant yardstick for him, given his profession. In reality, Khan simply plays himself in every movie, and seems to make virtually no effort to create layered and contrasting characters, much unlike his peers.

But the fact remains that his movies sell, and they sell well. He has legions of followers who watch his mediocre fare with great relish, just because of his presence. The finer aspects of the craft of filmmaking, such as the story and the performance, are irrelevant to them.

Photo: Giphy

For this extremely large and vocal group of people, he can do no wrong.

Box office success notwithstanding, Khan has had a notorious run over the last two decades. He has rightly been called controversy’s child. In addition to numerous incidents of insensitivity, arrogance and retribution for personal grudges, which one might overlook, he stands accused of several serious offences.

There have been allegations of domestic abuse, which should be viewed as an extremely serious offence, and deserves tough punishment. Unfortunately, society in India allows its male idols to get away quite easily with chauvinism. Ironically, Khan’s female fans – a group who should be outraged by such behaviour – either blame the victims of his abuse, or simply reject the allegations.

Then there are the hit-and-run charges for which Khan even got convicted in court, only for the conviction to be overturned on appeal. Through all of this, there has been intimidation of witnesses and potential influencing of the outcome of the investigation. Yet Khan, the Teflon coated superstar, has simply gone about his merry ways.

Undoubtedly, Khan has worked quite hard to ‘change’ his image, including starting his charity, Being Human. However, behind his charity and generosity, there is the undeniable edge of notoriety. After all, he has boasted of his underworld connections in the past. Furthermore, the frequency with which he courts trouble in itself indicates a propensity for flouting the rules.

Quite clearly, the law in India has seemed to be unwilling to hold him accountable.

Until now, when out of the blue came his conviction in a 20-year-old poaching case, and Khan found himself in jail, yet again.

His fans have gone crazy, to put it mildly. The entire Bollywood fraternity has once again closed ranks around him, deeming the punishment too harsh. Others cannot get over the fact that hundreds of crores are riding on Khan and his various projects and endorsement deals.

However, none of these arguments should matter to the law. If he’s been found guilty of a crime, then he must do the time.

Nevertheless, justice in India works in funny ways. For one, after spending two days in jail, he has been granted bail. He was sure to appeal his conviction, and the court has likely granted him bail while his appeal is under consideration.

What happens next?

Now, Khan will probably bring to bear all his influence – monetary and coercive – to alter the investigation and ensure his appeal gets him a “not guilty” verdict. There are numerous precedents to suggest this is a very likely outcome.

If this scenario were to indeed unfold, it would be a terrible travesty of justice. Khan getting away scot-free would encourage millions of impressionable young men to continue to imitate his cavalier behaviour and further diminish the fear of the law. Safe to say, this the last thing India needs.

It is important for the courts to stand by this conviction, even in the face of all the pressure that is likely to be put on them. Arguments like financial losses for many producers and threats of suicide by Khan’s demented fans needs to be dealt with in a firm manner. If the Padmaavat controversy has taught India anything, it is that we should not be held hostage to public sentiment, especially when it comes to upholding the law.

A good example is how Sanjay Dutt’s case was handled. He was given time to complete all his pending projects, but then had to serve out his sentence. This is how this case must be approached as well.

It has taken 20 years for the case to reach this stage, and it should not be allowed to meander on for another 20.

For the sake of those whom Khan has tormented, hurt, harmed, or eliminated, let’s hope justice prevails, even if belatedly. A serial offender must be reminded he is not above the law, and he can’t wantonly bulldoze his way past those who get in his way.

On a brighter note, maybe, if Khan ends up actually doing his time, he will display some maturity in his acting and make better movies.

Now that’s a win-win for everyone!

 

Amit Nangia

Amit Nangia

The author is a learning and development professional with a background in finance and human resources that informs his commentaries on geopolitical and socioeconomic trends. He tweets as @amitnangia06 (twitter.com/amitnangia06)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.