We cannot wish away the feelings, emotions and helplessness of the people, particularly the parents of the victims, in this country in the garb of arguments that “The law should take its own course.”
On December 6 evening, when I was watching the prime time shows of various news channels to know different viewpoints about the encounter by the Telangana police in the Hyderabad rape incident, killing the four accused, I struggled a bit to fix my position on the issue.
I generally do not support such an action, as I believe that the due process of law should be followed while punishing the guilty. We are a civilized society and law has its own role to maintain the civility and protect democratic practices and values. We are not an anarchical society.
There is no iota of doubt that the four accused in the rape and murder of the veterinary doctor in Hyderabad on November 27 were guilty and deserve the highest form of punishment. But the case was to be investigated by the police and would have been heard by a judge to pronounce the punishment. But the police’s controversial action on the day, which many think is actually a cold-blooded murder reading the circumstantial factors, put an end to such a process. The police action evoked merriment among the common people, mostly women and young girls, who celebrated the occasion by beating drums, feeding sweets to each other and to the police and tying rakhi to police personnel.
Most Hindi news channels were supported the common man’s emotions defending the police action, while most English channels preferred towing an intellectual line arguing in favour of the “due process of law”. Odia regional channels also argued in favour of a popular sentiment.
As I heard the news of death of the Unnao rape victim on late night of December 6, my conscience was shaken, so also my views. The thought that repeatedly challenged my intellectual standing is: had the Uttar Pradesh police acted like the Telangana police, we would not have lost this victim!
It is also true that the negligence of the police in the Unnao case is a cause for which the alleged rapists could catch hold of the victim on the road.
It may be pointed out that this Unnao rape case is different from another infamous case in the same district where a minor girl was gang raped in 2017 in which the former BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar is an accused.
The police and justice system have miserably failed us in case of heinous crime like rape followed by murder. The mother of the Nirbhaya (2012 Delhi rape case that enraged the whole country) justified the police action in Hyderabad while blaming the system. “I have seen my daughter dying every moment while she was in her last stage of life. I have been running incessantly to get justice for my daughter. What have I got in the last seven years?” After the Nirbhaya case, there were changes in the justice delivery mechanisms to fast track the disposal of such cases in follow up to the Justice JS Verma committee report. Now, after seven years, the convicts might be hanged soon as the home ministry is likely to recommend rejection of clemency by the President (India Today report).
Nirbhaya’s mother is right. Seven years is too long a time for anyone to wait for justice in a crime as heinous and barbaric like rape and murder. Also listen to the brother of the Unnao victim, who said, “When I hugged my sister she told me, she does not want to die. She asked me to ensure that the attackers are not speared.” He adds. “Hyderabad police was right. I also want “quick justice” for my sister”. Now her father also wants the same.
Yesterday, a friend, who is a high class professional, called me and said, “ Being the father of a daughter, I support the Hyderabad police action.”
We cannot wish away the feelings, emotions and helplessness of the people, particularly the parents of the victims, in this country in the garb of arguments that “The law should take its own course.” They also have a right to speedy justice. Had the due process of law been followed, the people would not have come out dancing in support of the encounter of the rape accused. Laws are a means to an end. They are meant to give justice to the people. Laws are not end in themselves.
How did the rape accused in the Unnao case get bail? Was it not part of the justice system? And see the audacity. He had threatened the family members of victims while on bail and committted this crime. It means that the legal system is terribly vulnerable to manipulation, which we witness in several cases. It is another wake up call for our politicians, police, judiciary, intellectuals and we as society at large to undertake radical reforms in the justice delivery system, otherwise I will not be surprised to see more such “Tatkal justice system” through encounters or any other forms which mask serious human rights violations.
(The writer is a senior Bhubaneswar-based journalist and the views are personal)