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A wife’s endless, bail-less wait
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, November 25
Lodged in Gurgaon’s Bondsi jail for almost a year, Aloka Syal finds it impossible to emerge from her trauma. She has been incarcerated since December 8 last year - a few months after her mother-in-law allegedly jumped off the eighth floor of Sushant Apartments in Gurgaon and died.

What followed was a painful sequence of events in which Aloka was pitched against none other than her own husband Mani Chhabra, who accused her and her parents of abetting his mother’s suicide. Over a year into the incident that occurred on September 30 last year and he is hell bent upon keeping his wife behind bars.

He has filed several applications alleging biased investigations by the police; has changed stand more than once; has moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court in the matter and demanded one independent probe after another. But strangely, after the High Court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the matter in May this year, he did not join investigation even once. It’s on record that the police served eight notices upon him and personally contacted him four times, but he declined to cooperate.

As the complainant armtwists the law and employs what legal luminaries call “delaying tactics”, a helpless girl waits for her turn, while others charged with more heinous crimes like rape and murder walk free with bail. Haggard after months of custody, she looks almost unrecognisable to those who have seen her in hey days.

“She used to be upbeat about life. But after marriage, things turned sour. Mani used to beat her up. She returned home once, but after several pleadings from Mani she went back. We had no idea of the tempest in waiting,” say Aloka’s parents, co-accused in the case.

Back in Bondsi - Haryana’s biggest jail — Aloka is psychologically devastated at the very thought of being lodged where 11 hardcore criminal gangs, including three of the infamous highway killers of Gurgaon, are lodged. “I did nothing to deserve this. I don’t know what went wrong,” she pleads. Still in a state of disbelief over the misfortune her husband has brought upon her, Aloka prays for bail, her fingers crossed in the apprehension of denial. Having been rejected anticipatory bail thrice, she is pinning her hopes on the regular bail, first heard in the High Court on May 25 this year.

Since then, it has been adjourned eight times. Despite the Supreme Court ruling that bail is a rule and jail is an exception, Aloka has been in custody for 11 months. Ironically, she offered herself in arrest, hoping to get bail.

Speaking to this correspondent at Bondsi Jail, Aloka broke into tears: “I can’t imagine Mani has challenged my father’s bail application. He wants to see my father in jail so that there’s no one left to fight for me. Earlier on, I had complained to the National Commission for Women which advised me to surrender, but that hasn’t helped.”

While Aloka’s wait for justice seems endless, some senior Haryana police officers now feel she shouldn’t have been charge sheeted at all. “Later investigations revealed the deceased was on anti-depressants much before she committed suicide. The day she died, she had been served breakfast by Aloka, who was the first to reach the spot on getting information of the mishap. Mani Chhabra was taking a bath and he turned up only later. Ever since, he has been alleging the police is siding with the accused. Now he’s saying the case is one of homicide.”

In its interim report to the High Court on November 5, SIT has ruled out homicide. Constituted under IGP, Ambala Range Mr S.S. Deswal, the team re-conducted spot inspection at the scene of incident and sought forensic opinion before giving conclusions that will dent Mani Chhabra’s theory. As such, lawyers feel Aloka’s case is fit for bail. “What to talk of bail, high courts have often acquitted accused in cases where complainants have been dissatisfied with the prosecution,” says lawyer K.S. Lamba.

But Aloka buys none of these precedents. All her hopes for redemption from this hopeless situation are pinned on God. He will listen, she believes.

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