Strauss-Kahn episode: Are rich & powerful above law?

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Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has reportedly made an agreement with the hotel maid who had accused him of sexual assault last year to settle the civil lawsuit the latter had brought against him. A report of popular French daily Le Monde said Strauss-Kahn agreed to pay $6 million to settle the issue. The daily said the accused economist-cum-politician and the Guinean maid, Nafissatou Diallo, will meet a judge in New York on the 7th of this month where the matter will be settled once for all.

The affair seriously tarnished Strauss-Kahn's career at the IMF from where he resigned and put his presidential ambitions offtrack. It was also said that Diallo was always open to negotiate on the case despite reluctance shown by her lawyers. In fact in July last year, the New York Times had reported that the case was in a mess and was nearing a collapse for there was a serious flaw in the credibility of the alleged victim.

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Strauss-Kahn is also awaiting a decision by a French court later this month on whether to call off a sex crime probe involving parties attended by prostitutes. If that case is also dropped besides the settlement of the case with the maid, Strauss-Kahn will have an opportunity to crawl back to the public life in France.

It is true that Strauss-Kahn's image and career had received a pounding because of the scandal but the disappointing moral of the story is that the rich and powerful in this world still manage to escape punishment despite committing the worst crime. The western world, known for its democratic and liberal traditions, are no exceptions, either.

In Strauss-Kahn's case, it has been reported that prosecutors are planning to drop the case against him while the victim's credibility is being questioned. Have all these been planned to protect vested interests of many? People like Strauss-Kahn are far too important for powerful lobbies, both political and economic, for his position and influence can be used in favour of potential public careers and donations for future ventures. A sexual assault allegation by a 'nobody' doesn't really matter for power players. It is a loosing battle for human rights groups to take up.

Even the US President had escaped unhurt

Strauss-Kahn is not the first person to have escaped like this. We can recall the name of Bill Clinton, one of the most popular US Presidents of the modern times, who was accused of sexual crime by a number of women. The media had mainly highlighted charges of Clinton's sexual relations with Monika Lewinsky but rape allegations brought by other women like Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick were never taken up comprehensively. Clinton had also proposed $8,50,000 out-of-court settlement with Paula Jones, who had also brought charges of sexual misconduct against the President in 1994. Clinton had smoothly finished his two terms despite an impeachment motion being initiated against him.

A Kennedy kin had bypassed law despite allegations

Another incident where an influential person escaped legal consequences despite being tried for rape was William Kennedy Smith, nephew of late US President John F Kennedy. A number of women had accused Smith of either raping them or having tried to rape them between 1983 and 1988. But yet, the rape trial of Smith in the early 1990s was terminated abruptly and he was exonerated. In 2004 and 2005, two more women alleged of being raped by Smith but while one case was dismissed, the other was settled out of court.

Lawsuit against Joe Biden's son was settled

A few years ago, the youngest son of senior Senator Joe Biden and the latter's brother was accused of cheating a business partner but the lawsuit was later settled.

Some quarters suspect that strong anti-Strauss-Kahn lobbies conspired against him to get him out of the IMF and the presidential race by manipulating the sexual crime, but that does not answer the real question: Whether indeed the rich and the influential escape unhurt? How can the former IMF chief evade the consequences despite DNA test confirmed that Strauss-Kahn's DNA sample matched with the semen sample found on the maid's clothes?

In India too, the rich and powerful are accused of buying law after indulging in corrupt activities and those with no political or economic advantage end up at the receiving end despite huge uproar in the media time and again. We have seen how accusations against influential people like Robert Vadra and Nitin Gadkari are never followed-up truly and meet a premature death. Black money stashed abroad is never traced. But if a country like the USA, known for its standard democratic practices, are not above suspicion when it comes to delivery of justice, we, as a developing society, can only wish things to get better one day.

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