‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ is an oft-used adage in English. Those who read this book will endorse this statement without doubt. The author, a lawyer by profession, hasdetailed 10 popular murder mysteries (one attempt to murder) and cases which almost shook the nation in their own unique ways.
However, half of the book (92 pages of the 196 pages) has been dedicated to the most famous, controversial and long drawn case of Bhawal Sanyasi Case. A case in which a dead prince of a zamin in West Bengal of 1909, reappeared as a mendicant in 1921 and started making claims as the dead prince who was supposedly dead and cremated. The case went on interesting lines while the judgment by Pannalal Basu turned out to be a landmark in this most complex case of identity crisis.
The other cases narrated are the murders of ‘Sub Collector Robert WDE Ashe’, ‘Singampatti’, ‘Bawla’, ‘Pakur’, ‘Lakshmikanthan’, ‘Alavanthan’ , ‘Nanavati’ and also a case of ‘Poisonous Injection’ and the ‘Shooting of MGR by M.R. Radha’. Except in the last one where it was an attempt to murder, all the cases had murders of different manner and at different times.
Except for the first one, which could be considered as part of the Freedom Struggle in India, all the cases were deliberate, vicious, planned and ruthless culpable homicides for individual gains and personal vendetta. It is a bit surprising that in the case of the ‘Lakshmikanthan Murder Case,’ the murderer remains untraced to this day.
True, many of the cases were handled with great insight and perception but it is also mentioned that in the case of the Nanavati Murder, political influences started interfering with the judicial system.
Chokalingam had taken enough care to present the cases with minimum confusion on the murder, investigation and proceedings. Nevertheless, the Bhawla Sanyasi case is undoubtedly a bit too extended.
This book should be interesting for those who don’t feel grisly about cold blooded murders and violence, and want to know how the courts try culprits and pronounce punishments. In these cases, all the death sentences were performed and no hue and cry was made by the Human Rights Commission in those days. Probably, in present day India, most of these cases would have either dragged on for years in the courts or capital punishments would not have been executed. Whether it is a progress or not, is certainly a moot point.
Prabhala Kolai Vazhakkugal
Kizhakku Pathippagam, 57, PMG Complex, South Usman Road, T. Nagar, Chennai 600 017 Pages 200, Rs.140