The Dramatic Decade: Landmark Cases of Modern India review: From the courtroom

The Dramatic Decade: Landmark Cases of Modern India
Indu Bhan
Penguin Random House

The Dramatic Decade: Landmark Cases of Modern India Indu Bhan Penguin Random House ₹499  


A look back at important trials of the past 10 years

A thriller of a book, Indu Bhan’s The Dramatic Decade deals with some of the most important court cases of the past 10 years, but the 12 chapters are not dry narratives of courtroom proceedings. They begin with the crime itself. Here, the witnesses, some feted and some forgotten, recount their stories through Bhan. They include the final moments of CRPF constable Kamlesh Kumari, who heroically tried to seal the entry of the Parliament attackers and took 11 bullets, to Guptaji, who continues to have nightmares after helplessly watching a couple throw their screaming child from the first floor of a burning Uphaar Theatre. Bhan’s work has adrenaline coursing through its veins.

When the narrative flows seamlessly into the part where the case comes to court, Bhan falls back on her skills as a legal reporter. She simplifies court proceedings for the lay reader, going over the submissions made by lawyers during hearings and the arguments on the point of law. The Dramatic Decade does not pontificate about what is right and wrong, instead reproduces pivotal portions of the judgments which do the talking. Take for example Justice R. Banumathi’s observation in her order on the Nirbhaya gangrape case where she says, “It becomes important to ensure that gender justice does not remain only on paper... offences against women are not women’s issue alone but a human rights issue.”

Bhan says terrible happenings like the Nirbhaya and the 26/11 Mumbai attacks have left scars but changed nothing for the better. Abuse against women continues, she notes, despite a new and draconian rape law.

Sunita Shah, a witness in the Mumbai attacks, recounts to Bhan the numbness felt by citizens of Mumbai, the target of many terror attacks. “We are just waiting for the next tragedy,” says Shah.

Bhan’s portrait of Lily Thomas, the spunky octogenarian lawyer, who led the fight against corruption in politics and won a historical victory in the Supreme Court, is true to life. I saw Thomas recently tick off a reporter for expressing his doubts about her continuing battle against political corruption. “So you don’t care about democracy?” she confronted him.

The book mirrors Bhan’s tenacity as a reporter who doggedly collects documents, chases down newsmakers of the day and leaves nothing to chance or hearsay. She does not mince words either. Once told by a senior leader in the court verandah that he knew Mandarin, Bhan cut him short with “English is enough for now.”

The Dramatic Decade: Landmark Cases of Modern India; Indu Bhan, Penguin Random House, ₹499.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 4:46:21 AM |

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