Hyderabad Encounter: Warning bells of Eroding Faith in Judicial Process?

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Police at the site of the encounter. PTI

Today morning the nation woke up to the news of the encounter of the four alleged youth in the Hyderabad Rape case which led to the brutal rape and murder of a young veterinary doctor on the night of 27-28th November 2019. A barrage of message flowed in from across the nation – most were appreciating the action and the hailing the photos of the cops who conducted the encounter.

If the case as narrated by police is true, and the alleged criminals were running away from police in a way to justify the deadly use of force, it is all fine. But if that is not the case and the encounter was staged it leaves us with a lot of questions. 

Firstly, the reaction of the citizens at large, supporting a “singham style justice” shows the minimal faith that is left with the judicial due process. There is a lot for the courts of India to chew from this. Even the murders and worse murder-rape dual crimes are taking decades to come to an end – the citizens are bound to be frustrated. Civil suits can go on 4-5 decades spanning generations! It is further augmented by the fact that many of the top courts still prefer to take British Style vacation whilst the ordinary citizen is left running from one black coat to another, shelling money and time, looking for justice like a deer running after a mirage.

Secondly, it is questionable if all are equal in the eyes of law anymore. Three days prior to this case, on 24th November 2019, the Supreme Court of India, worked on a Sunday to hear a plea from three political parties of Maharashtra. Our political leaders could not wait for a day in their tussle to occupy the Chief Minister’s chair in the state which holds India’s largest economy. What stopped the same courts to see the barrage of emotions from the common man and woman, to set a one-week deadline to resolve all hearing and pass judgment on the Hyderabad case. Why some politicians, feuding with their own family, become a far bigger issue for courts to decide on urgency than the family of a victim asking for justice. The system was found grossly underachieving the humble expectations of its citizens.

Thirdly, if (big if) the police staged an encounter – that is also a dangerous trend and must not be promoted. There is a reason why the investigator, juror and executioner are separated by law. If this is the new system we will promote, then the question is who will decide when to execute and when not to execute. Media, police, power-holders or people at large?

Would such a system not lead to a scenario where accusations leading to media trials will end in rapid-fire police executions? How would such a system be foolproof against becoming a way to sort “private” matters of dispute and political vendetta? Police are far more under control of political bosses than judiciary is – and if it is encouraged to let them “decide” we are opening a gaping system of making it the hitman wing of those in power.

What stops this from becoming a system where if – X (high and mighty) commits a heinous crime, “employs” some local police to accuse another person say, Y of the crime – media trial of Y happened followed by the encounter of Y and case closed. Any proofs and any chance of justice to either the victim or to accused Y dies with the encounter. Police become the final judge of any and all crimes.

Worst still. What if under such a freestyle system, police catches say three suspects. The media parades them as guilty and bays for their blood. Police later find there is conclusive evidence with one or more of the suspects that he was not even present at the scene of the crime. Would police take the embarrassment of admitting to having caught the wrong guy in public glare? Or adopt the easy way out by shooting all three of them in an encounter. Public happy. Case closed. (If this sounds remotely familiar. It is a subplot from the all-time hit movie Shawshank Redemption)

And police has no great record to show for itself.

National Human Rights Commission revealed that it had recorded 1,782 cases of fake encounters in India during a period of 2000-2017, that is one fake encounter every 3 days!

And the police have no great record to show for itself. National Human Rights Commission revealed that it had recorded 1,782 cases of fake encounters in India during a period of 2000-2017, that is one fake encounter every 3 days!

India needs to seriously relook at its judicial process now. Time and time again the warning bells have gone off and left unheard. Justice system needs to be foolproof from both ends – removing false positive while ensuring relief to the victim. Today, the nation is divided on the Hyderabad Encounter but what everybody is united on is the sensation that the lady law is not acting fast enough. Yesterday it was, justice delayed is justice denied and tomorrow it can become justice hurried is justice buried.

Adapted from the Facebook wall of Srijan Pal Singh.

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