Md Irshad Ayub
The four suspects accused of raping and burning alive a veterinarian in Hyderabad were killed by police in an encounter at Friday dawn.
According to the police, the accused were taken from Cherlapally Central Prison to Chatanpally, 50 km from Hyderabad, where they had burnt the woman’s body, for “crime reconstruction”. They then allegedly tried to attack the police and escape, at which point the police say the opened fire in self-defence.
The four suspects accused – Mohammed (26), Jollu Shiva (20), Jollu Naveen (20) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20) – had been arrested on November 29, two days after the vet went missing from Shamshabad toll plaza. Her burnt corpse was recovered on November 28. They were in judicial custody in high-security cells at Cherlapally Central Prison. They were charged under IPC sections 302 (murder), 375 (rape) and 362 (abduction). The accused had not yet been tried or convicted. However, no law in India sanctions encounter of accused by police. The body of the vet was charred due to burning. She was only till now suspected of being raped. No forensic report had established rape yet.
Questions, however, remain on why the police took the accused persons out to “reconstruct” the crime in the middle of the night. According to available information, the encounter happened at 3 am on Friday. And what on earth were the police “investigating” at 3 am all this time later? Why they were sleeping during the golden hour of evidence, refusing to register an FIR, when the young vet was alive?
The case was still under investigation. The chargesheet had not been filed. Trial had not begun. The court was yet to hear the accused and the prosecution. It was not yet proven that the accused who were shot dead were the actual culprits of the gangrape and murder. And, even if they were the culprits, the police were not authorised to take their lives. As a benefit of doubt, it is also not yet clear whether the police used all means to capture the accused when they allegedly tried to escape. The claim stretches credulity.
India is known to be as rape capital of the world. Rape has been the fourth common crime in India, facing an endless vicious cycle of brutality on women. When the entire nation is gripped with incidents of women being raped, assaulted and murdered, it was obvious that celebrations would be broke out in many parts of the country. Several public figures supported the police action, seeing it as an exemplary instance of instant justice and others say what we are celebrating and cheering is the end of rule of law as well as law due process doctrine. Rights groups and social activists were outraged, termed it as Extrajudicial killing, Fake encounter, and Mob justice as well.
Meanwhile, The National Human Rights Commission has also taken suo moto cognizance of the killings and has ordered spot inquiry. The Telangana High Court has taken cognizance of the encounter based on a representation received by the office of the Chief Justice and alleging it was an extrajudicial killing.
Mob justice verse Rule of law
The gangrape and murder of the woman is a horrendous crime, and as a responsible human being we must condemn it in the strongest possible terms.
But what have we become? What proof was there that these were real culprits? Do we have information on investigation and evidence which prove the crime beyond doubt? Is India a banana republic? Is India not bound by legal and constitutional framework? Politics over crime cannot set a right precedence. What we need is a quick response, good investigation, a speedy trial, and fast justice. Collapsing the due process of law with encounter killings will only lead to the process, law and order collapsing, besides bringing the anarchy in the country. This is bloodlust versus due process. Law and due process cannot be sidelined. The trial should be fastened in such heinous crimes and the accused should be punished at earliest.
People who want instant justice by encounters for every crime should realise that one day they can end up at the receiving end. These extra-constitutional and judicial methods will return to haunt us badly in times to come, English phrase “Chickens coming home to roost” is the example of the same. But the fact of the matter is that we need to sensitize people in general that such acts will follow with swift and terrible consequences. Anarchy in police uniform is not a solution. Barbarism has no role in our Society. Public outcry, high emotions and media trial should not become the order of the day. Time-bound fast track trial in a month and the harshest punishment including the death penalty will not only serve as accurate and appropriate-oriented manners but deterrent as well. Extrajudicial killings have always been a dark blot on the Criminal Justice system, mockery of judicial-legal system too. It is an anathema to ‘Rule of Law’. If justice delayed is justice denied then justice hurried is justice buried.
India has been grappling with rising lynch-mob incidents since 2015. Dozens of people were killed in a string of mob attacks. Most of them were Muslims. Lynching has become an epidemic because of the cynical encouragement of hate attacks by the country’s ruling establishment. These are ultimately matters not of the design of law, but of normalizing hate in the polity and society against Muslims.
No officer shall be given out of turn promotion or a gallantry award for encounter operations till the inquiry is completed on its genuineness.
So many cases where “Alleged” found “Innocent”
Ayesha Meera case the Police couldn’t crack the case, thus implicated Satyam Babu, who was later found to be innocent by the High Court. Ryan School murder case, police arrested the bus conductor, who confessed that he murdered the child. Later, CBI investigated and found that police tortured and forced him to confess. He was not the real murderer. Real culprit was 11th class student from same school. If police had encountered the bus conductor, people would have celebrated and wrongly thought justice has been served. There are so many cases in which innocent Muslim youths were arrested and implicated by Anti-Terrorism Squad, NIA and IB for their role in terrorist blasts. They were charged with murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation. Media declared them terrorist at once even though chargesheet was not filed in the court. Later they were found to be innocent and released by Supreme Court after languishing many years in jail. Fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Ishrat Jahan and the stories of many other Kashmiri Muslim men framed as terrorists and left to rot in different prisons across India are the reflection of the same.
Nisar-ud-din Ahmad, who spent 23 years in jail, was found to be innocent. He was arrested at 20 while he was a pharmacy student. But when the state uses draconian laws and foul play where innocents are caught in the trap, then human dignity is hurt.
Are we, the people of India headed on a course of fascism, self-destruction, and anarchy?
Whenever revenge is equated to justice, democracy turns into mobocracy and in mobocracy, justice no more remains an issue of legality but it becomes a matter of sheer muscularity power.
Existing laws on sexual crimes and punishment need better application, but a recourse to brutal retribution as suggested unwisely by many is no solution.
After any incident, the person arrested by the police is called accused; the job of the court is to prove his crime. That is why there is a judicial trial of each case. The job of the police is to hand over the accused to the court. It is the job of the court to punish the culprits. This is the democratic system. That’s the rule of law.
No civilized society can sanction the extra-judicial killing of any suspects/accused/detainees/under-trials or convicted by the police. The law of the land is very clear that-even a hardened criminal he deserves to face the fair trail and not to be killed arbitrarily. The tendency of encounter killing is common in Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast States and Andhra Pradesh. There are certain police officers who proudly named as ‘encounter specialist’. These killings are extra-judicial killing and not acceptable in any civilized society. When law protector becomes law breaker the credibility of the State is at stake. Most of the encounter do happened in the name of prevention of terrorist activities in the State.
Republic of India is based upon rule of law. It is held together by constitutional law, morality, propriety and ethics. If there is no rule of law today, there will be no nation tomorrow.
If all suspects are to be considered guilty, we have opened the doors to the final massacre of our own constitution. Because after this the state, the police, the government can accuse any of us of being suspects and execute us. At the end of it there will be no Republic, no society, no constitution, no rule of law, nothing absolutely nothing left to defend.
Innocent until proven guilty, equal protection under law, rule of law, law due process doctrine, procedure established by law and constitutionalism are ideals, fundamental rights, core principles and cardinal concept of Indian Constitution.
Justice Venkatachaliah, who was Chief Justice of India in 1993-94, underlined that “under our laws the police have not been conferred any right to take away the life of another person”, and “if, by his act, the policeman kills a person, he commits the offence of culpable homicide whether amounting to the offence of murder or not unless it is proved that such killing was not an offence under the law”.
When a society degenerates and institutions crumble, court of law falls down, justice decimates then mob justice takes precedence and does lynching in a typical Bollywood style. Law must take its course.
Numerous unheard stories of torture, rape and murder
After watching and reading the comments of so many people supporting the “encounter” killings of the 4 rape suspects in Hyderabad rape case, it is clear to me why so many Indians are okay with the blanket lockdown of Kashmiris, in their own homes, for more than 100+ days.
For example, rapes committed by powerful people, socially and economically well-to-do people are never as litigated in the public domain as the Nirbhaya case or the doctor’s case. The class structure and the caste structure define women’s reactions as much as they define men’s reactions in India.
So, millions of Indian women have justified the brutal gangraping and butchering of Muslim women during the Gujarat anti Muslims pogrom in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 men, women and children. Mayaben Kodnani, a doctor who led a mob that raped and killed over 90 men, women and children, has been acquitted by the Gujarat High Court despite her role being established beyond doubt, and that has not angered the women, even hundreds of thousands of liberal women, who are currently high-fiving the Hyderabad Police.
In Kashmir as well as in Manipur, Indian men belonging to the army or paramilitary have raped women at will. The Kunan Poshspora incident mass-rape that took place in Kashmir in 1991, survivors are yet to be given complete justice because Army are protected by draconian law, still enjoy immunity. Adivasi women in Chhattisgarh and Dalit women in India are raped and killed routinely. But most of our city women have never met an adivasi woman in their lives.
A total of 34 girls out of 42 girls, living in a girl’s stay home, were drugged, raped, tortured and beaten repeatedly over a period of two years at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. All the rape survivors were minors, ageing between 7-14 years old. The stay home was run by a state govt-funded NGO called Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti. Ten accused have already been arrested including the owner, Brajesh Thakur. This is known as Muzaffarpur Shelter Home mass rape. Later on CBI has informed the Supreme Court that they have come across skeletal remains in a burial ground near the Muzaffarpur shelter home and 11 other inmates may have been killed.
Justice is not an instant coffee. It needs an introspective investigative process completely based of collaborative and evidential proof and eye witness account. Trail must be fair and just as well as reasonable in accordance with the constitution and the law of land. Justice in any civilised society is not just about retribution, but also about deterrence.
The author is English Editor at Millat Times and columnist at One World Think Tank. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org