The courts in India are struggling with a huge backlog of cases. As of 2016, there were 27 million pending cases and close to 90 million people still waiting for justice. To the common man, these are just numbers. But some cases have impacted the collective conscious of the entire nation.
A lot of what happened inside the courts during these trials has remained hidden from public view – what were the arguments made, which lawyers fought it, what was the court's judgement and how did it affect the common man. The Dramatic Decade gives the reader a ringside view of each of these trials.
Here is a little about four of the cases that author Indu Bhan has included in the book "The Dramatic Decade: Landmark Cases of Modern India". The book is published by Penguin Random House.
A beacon-fitted white Ambassador with identity stickers of the Ministry of Home Affairs attempted to enter the Indian Parliament. The attackers were heavily armed with automatic assault rifles, pistols, and hand and rifle grenades.
They were also carrying electronic detonators, spare ammunition and improvised explosive devices like tiffin bombs. In addition, the boot of the car contained a bomb made with an enormous quantity of ammonium nitrate. It was sufficient to blow up the entire Parliament premises.
On that day, Hindu kar sevaks (activists) stormed Babri Masjid, a sixteen-century mosque built by the first Mughal emperor Babur's Shia army commander, Mir Baqi. The mob of kar sevaks demolished the constructed portion, the boundary wall, the Ram Chabutra and some other portions in the disputed premises of the Babri Masjid in the city of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
A makeshift temple was constructed under the central dome and the idol of Ram Lalla (the infant Lord Ram) was placed there. The demolition, which took place in spite of the Supreme Court's order that no damage should be caused to the disputed structure, triggered massive communal riots across the country and at least 2000 people were killed.
A thick column of smoke billowed and engulfed the Uphaar Cinema complex in south Delhi. It was a gruesome spectacle. Border, an Indian multi-starrer war film, had just been released. It was the highest-grossing Bollywood film of the year 1997. So engrossed was the audience in this war film that when smoke began to fill the main auditorium, they thought it was a special-effects display.
It was pitch-dark and soon the auditorium turned into a gas chamber. The toxic fumes inside the hall caused asphyxiation, killing fifty-nine people, out of which twenty-three were children.
On this day, Mumbai witnessed unprecedented terrorist attacks which sent shock waves throughout the country. In a span of about two hours, between 1.33 p.m. and 3.40 p.m., a series of twelve bomb explosions took place at twelve different landmark locations. These serial bombings claimed 257 lives, seriously injured 713 people and destroyed property worth Rs 27 crore.
This was the largest coordinated terror attack in India. The objective of the crime was to incite communal violence, weaken the government, disturb social harmony and to break up the social, political and economic order of the country.
PS: Indu Bhan is one of India's top legal reporters with over a decade of experience writing about the Indian legal system. She is an assistant editor with the Financial Express. She also writes a weekly column Verdict Corner, on the recent developments in the field of law. Her first book, Legal Eagles, was published in 2015. In the past, Indu has worked with Business Standard, Mint and the Press Trust of India. She lives in Delhi.