It’s called Criminal Justice – Adhura Sach, but it could well have been titled Better Call Madhav.

If the raison d’etre of the Disney+ Hotstar show’s third season was to bring back Pankaj Tripathi’s popular defence lawyer Madhav Mishra, then it’s mission accomplished. The kind of actor who can make a takeout of burger and fries seem as special as a multi-course meal at a high-end restaurant, Tripathi hugely boosts the new edition, even if he can’t quite rescue it entirely.

An Indian adaptation of the BBC series of the same name, Criminal Justice has previously explored a flawed man’s wrongful incarceration and the legal travails of a severely abused wife. The new eight-episode run, written by Bijesh Jayarajan and Iti Aarwal and directed by Rohan Sippy, is essentially a murder mystery cloaked as a courtroom drama.

Zara (Deshna Dugad) is a popular 14-year-old actor whose television show has made her parents Avantika (Swastika Mukherjee) and Neeraj (Purab Kohli) immensely wealthy. Although Avantika and Neeraj keep saying that they love Zara, they cannot resist benefitting from her fame.

A holiday to Madh Island near Mumbai is actually an excuse for a lucrative endorsement deal. When Zara’s brutalised body turns up on the beach, all fingers point in the direction of her emotionally unstable adolescent brother Mukul (Aaditya Gupta).

The new season’s themes include the exploitation of young talent, the police tendency to disregard the legal principle of presumed innocence, and the impact of disturbed family dynamics on teenagers. There’s also some bile reserved for nasty journalists who keep flogging sensational crimes.

Among the familiar faces from the previous season are feisty inspector Gauri (Kalyanee Mulay) and Madhav’s spirited wife Ratna (Khushboo Atre). The relationship between Madhav and Ratna is an agreeably distracting subplot filled with coy smiles and spousal flirting.

A track revolving around the privileged background of public prosecutor Lekha (Shweta Basu Prasad) goes nowhere, just as the complexity of the dynamic between Zara and her parents is barely explored – are they patrons of her talent or parasites? The mood, often drenched in Avantika’s tears or darkened by Neeraj’s rage, lifts whenever Madhav Mishra saunters in with a well-timed folksy insight delivered in impeccable Hindi.

While Criminal Justice – Adhura Sach has a few noteworthy performances, including by Swastika Mukherjee, Purab Kohli and Gaurav Gera as Avantika’s first husband, this is a Pankaj Tripathi show from the moment we first see him in a courtroom, defending yet another indefensible client.

I adore you because you can make people open their hearts to you, Ratna tells Madhav. One of several characters in the first Criminal Justice season and increasing in importance ever since, Madhav Mishra is poised to become the master of his own universe.

Criminal Justice – Adhura Sach (2022).