| Jagjivan: Freedom at last
Lucknow, April 20: A faint smile played on the lips of 70-year-old Jagjivan Ram Yadav today as he heard a Faizabad court make history with six short words.
History of a different kind from that seen eight days ago at a Rajasthan court that had convicted a rapist three weeks after the crime.
“You are a free man now,” fifth additional sessions judge Lalchand Tripathi told Jagjivan, who has spent 38 years in custody ' the duration of almost three life terms ' on a murder charge without trial.
The man had been sent to a mental asylum in Varanasi in December 1968 a few months after he was held as a young man of 32, said the jailer of Faizabad district jail, Subhas Chandra. The jail then forgot all about him till the asylum sent him back in July 2005.
Jagjivan was set free on a personal bond at the instance of the Supreme Court in February this year after The Telegraph published a report on him on January 23.
But life since then has been far from normal for this farmer, wife Patto Devi said at their home in Mitaura village, Faizabad.
Every day he gets out of bed at 3 am ' the time when he used to be woken up at the asylum to start his day’s labours on the fields.
“He still does it now. Instead of the jail’s paddy fields, he now walks across to his own land and begins the day’s work,” said brother-in-law, Ram Raj Rai.
“But he is smiling a bit these days,” said son Keshu, who was just a year old when his father was held in 1968.
Keshu and Rai were in court today where Jagjivan’s advocate Ramkrishna Yadav said he would demand compensation for “the victim of miscarriage of justice”.
“We’ll demand he be given compensation at the rate of the minimum wage for a labourer for the last 38 years during which he was detained illegally,” the lawyer said.
Jagjivan’s ordeal had come to light in July 2005 when he was produced in court 37 years after his first appearance before a judge on December 7, 1968.
“He was dumped in Faizabad jail but soon he was heard of no more,” said brother-in-law Rai. “We took him for dead but in July last year, we came to know he was alive when he was produced in court.”
The court repeatedly asked for details of the case but the police could produce little.
Inspector Dhruv Chandra of Khandaga police station said in a report in January this year that Jagjivan was the son of Mathura Prasad and a murder complaint had been lodged against him by a man called Badri Prasad Tiwari.
At the time of his arrest, Jagjivan had allegedly confessed to having bludgeoned a neighbour’s wife to death with a hammer.
“No more information could be provided as the records on subsequent action against him could not be found,” the inspector wrote.
In February, when the Supreme Court directed the sessions court to speed up the trial, the prosecution witnesses were summoned.
“But none of them turned up,” said public prosecutor Sailesh Chandra Mishra.
At Jagjivan’s home, wife Patto Devi wept for joy.
could not control her tears after the verdict. She said that even after his release on a personal bond, she used to live in fear.
“I used to have nightmares that he was being dragged out of home by jail officers. I went to the temple every day since I learnt he was alive and prayed for his release,” said the woman who had clad herself in a widow’s white clothes and brought up her son with help from neighbours and the produce from the family’s three acres of land.