The bogus witness

Giving false testimony is nothing new or unusual in India. People are not even scared of perjury, i.e., telling a lie under oath during a judicial proceedings. Several times, false statements and bogus testimonies are given under police inquiries for against particular individuals either to save oneself or one’s beloved or to trap some particular person under a false charge. This has been being done for decades in free India. Hindi mystery writer Surendra Mohan Pathak has penned a murder mystery whose plot is framing of an innocent youth in a hit and run case whose premise is a bogus witness only. This more than three decades novel is Jhoothi Gawaahi (bogus witness / testimony).The story of the novel starts with the arrest of Prashant Holkar, a young man from a high profile industrial family known as the Holkars under the charge of making a hit and run crime by his car and causing the death of a pedestrian named as Kaashinaath. Prashant’s deceased father was the youngest of the three brothers of the Holkar family. Presently he is having two uncles. The elder one is Maarutirao Holkar who is bed-ridden and inching towards death. He’s a bachelor. The second one is Balwantrao Holkar who has married a gold-digger woman much younger to him in age named as Shashikala. Balwantrao is said to have gone abroad alongwith Shashikala when Prashant is arrested by the police.

The biggest evidence against Prashant in this hit and run case is a so-called eye-witness Darshanlaal who has given testimony against him. The journalist hero Sunil comes into picture when he is approached by a young girl Chetna who is an employee in a company of the Holkars but is silently in love with Prashant (knowing very well that a girl of her status cannot dream of marrying a wealthy youth like Prashant). Chetna tells Sunil some new and hitherto unknown facts of the case and requests him to help innocent Prashant. Quite expectedly our idealist and kind hero delves deep into the case and finally uncovers the whole truth hidden from the eyes in this apparently hit and run case, proving Prashant as innocent and bringing the guilty to the law-enforcers.

Jhoothi Gawaahi is not only a very entertaining murder mystery but tells something about the functioning of the industrial houses and large groups of companies. It presents a very colourful character named as Daan Singh who is known as the troubleshooter of the Holkars and enjoys huge influence in the affairs of the business as well as the owning family. I know by my own experience that the business houses mainly run by particular families (technically known as the promoters but actually behaving like the owners of the whole business establishments and assets) do not always tread the straight path. They violate laws, corrupt the law enforcing machinery, buy the honesty and sincerity of the trade union leaders and sometimes get involved in purely criminal activities too albeit through other ones acting as smokescreen for them. Such people kept as troubleshooters by the industrial families are nothing but sophisticated goons. Daan Singh of Jhoothi Gawaahi is one such character only who is pitted against our idealist hero when he goes out in quest of the truth of the case.

Jhoothi Gawaahi also highlights this untold fact that employees are made by their employers to tell lies to the authorities as well as the courts against generous consideration. Giving bogus witness or testimony appears to them like a trivial thing done as a part of their employment duties.

The novel also demarcates a true lover from a gold-digger. Balwantrao Holkar’s wife Shashikala is a gold-digger who has married a much older man for the sake of his wealth only whereas Chetna is a true lover who knows that marrying Prashant, the son of a high profile industrialist family is just like asking for the moon for an ordinary girl like him but she is ready to do anything and make any sacrifice to save Prashant’s life. The hero of this novel, i.e., Sunil is sensible enough to differentiate between these two but all may not be able to do so. Hence in the end, he advises Prashant (who after knowing Chetna’s true love for him, gets ready to marry her) to wait for marrying Chetna till his eldest uncle Maarutirao is alive who may categorize Chetna with Shashikala.

The language of this novel is simple and the dialogues are spicy. Sunil’s perennial love-hate buddy Inspector Prabhu Dayaal is not ready to listen to him. However in the climax, he interacts with the Superintendent of Police (of the fictitious city of Rajnagar) – Raam Singh who is his friend also, and unravels the whole mystery before him to clarify as to who is guilty and who is innocent in this case. Sunil’s quick-wit and razor-sharp mind (especially when dealing with Daan Singh, the troubleshooter of the Holkar family and Darshanlaal, the so-called eye-witness of the incident) is the highlight of this novel.

First published in 1981, this novel under the immensely popular Sunil Series of the legendary Hindi mystery writer appears as fresh as a recently written novel. I recommend it to all the Hindi readers liking murder mysteries.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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