The unsung heroes of the Salman trial

A lot has been written and said about the Salman trial and the various dramatis personae in it other than the actor. But this conviction could not have been possible without two unassuming and totally undramatic people – public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat and Judge D W Deshpande.

In the initial days court reporters were not entirely impressed with Judge Deshpande. He seemed mild mannered in front of actor Salman Khan and did not object to court staff bringing their kith and kin to catch a glimpse of Salman Khan. But over time it was evident that Judge Deshpande may be mild mannered, but he was firm on lefal points. In general judges are imposing characters, trying to show the lawyers their superior knowledge of law or just trying to be superior. Not Judge Deshpande. He would mildly intervene only if the arguments were veering off the issue of law. He would reprimand in his soft voice and he would side with whoever was right, be it the prosecution or the defence. Which is why it was no surprise when he came on verdict day and told Salman in a mild and factual voice – The court has concluded you were driving the car, all charges against you have been proven. There was no drama, no observations or rhetoric, no spouting of metaphors on law, just a plain sentencing. That this was a high profile case was almost muted the way he pronounced the judgement.

Almost matching Judge Deshpande in humility and sincerity was public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat. Gharat was brought in by the Mumbai police after some unsatisfactory turns in the case with the previous public prosecutor. He came into the case after the victims had already been examined which means he only had the other material and ancilliary witnesses to examine. Gharat says the police came to him during a lunch break and he filed his vakalatnama the same afternoon. From the very first day Gharat kept a friendly but low key profile. At no point was he overly dramatic. He never let on that this was a highly watched case, that it could raise his profile significantly. To every question he always had a smile. Gharat was also not deterred by the battery of lawyers from a big shot firm that Salman had hired. One of junior lawyers among this crowd would always laugh at Gharat’s pronounciation of English words. This lady lawyer would forever be giggling at him, enough to provoke even the most saintly amongst us, but through the year long trial there was only once that he reprimanded her. This lawyer with her fancy degree and fancy firm job still was no match for the vernacular bred but arguing in perfect legal language Gharat, but she perhaps couldnt really imagine that. In media interactions too Gharat would smilingly give an account of the day even when things would not have gone his way.

For Gharat and Deshpande there will be many more cases that will come and go. But for everyone who witnessed the trial from close quarters they will now be forever etched in memory as silent but effective officers of the court.

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