India woke up to the news of four rape accused being shot dead by a team of the Hyderabad Police, which claimed the accused tried to flee during the recreation of crime scene on early Friday morning. To many among those who are reacting to this killing of gangrape and murder accused, who were under police custody, the police action was “justice” being delivered.
People were seen shouting slogans in praise of the Hyderabad Police. Flowers were showered on police personnel. People were seen celebrating the police action in other parts of the country, including the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai.
Some politicians too have justified the police action. Mayawati, the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh said the police action is “commendable” and that justice has been done. She went on to say, “Had police taken a similar tough action in the case of Nirbhaya gangrape, justice could have been delivered early.”
I understand these emotions and I respect these emotions too but as a woke Indian, I see things differently. And from where I stand, this is nothing but blatant murder of DEMOCRACY. I’ll tell you why.
In Blackstone’s famous words, “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffers”. The essence of criminal trial lies in that the accused is to be presume innocent until a charge is proved against him without any reasonable doubt. Our constitution is based on fundamental that “Let Hundreds Go Unpunished, But Never Punish an Innocent Person” Right to get a fair representation in a criminal procedure is a facet of Right to Equality (Article 14).
On this note, I’ll share one story, I was accused of workplace harassment, when my colleagues got to know about the incident, they branded me as rapists who was trying to steal the modesty of an innocent girl. My colleagues confronted me but when they heard my side of the story, they understood that I was anything but a rapist, they understood that I am not someone who encourages workplace harassment.
Now lets add a twist to this story, imagine the same scenario, I am accused of workplace harassment, but this time instead of confronting me, my colleagues decide that it’s better if police handles this entire situation. So, now I am taken into custody and next day you get a news that “a person accused of workplace harassment dies in an encounter”. Will you celebrate now? Will you post stories about how justice is served? Will you say that “Mera desh badal rha hai”.
If yes, then you don’t understand the beauty of a democracy. Indian constitution is wedded to Democracy and Rule of Law, the concept of free and fair trial is a constitutional commitment for which the cardinal principle of Criminal Law revolves around the Natural Justice wherein, even the accused or guilty person is treated with a human treatment. The law of the land requires the prosecution to stand at its own legs and to prove the guilt of the accused beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt. The accused persons are also granted certain rights, the most basic of which are found in the Indian Constitution. An accused has certain rights during the course of any investigation; enquiry or trial of offence with which he is charged, and he should be protected against arbitrary or illegal arrest.
Imagine, your father is ACCUSED of rape, or your BROTHER is ACCUSED of rape, or your husband is ACCUSED of rape, and before proven guilty, you get a news that, he is killed in an encounter or he dies in custody under questionable circumstances. I am 500 percent sure that you won’t have celebrated this news.
Now let’s talk about facts, Article 20 says that “no person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence. Thus, accused is given fair equality as par with another citizen. Also, by the judicial voice, a wider ambit has been given to right to life and liberty and thus accused are given a human treatment in jails fulfilling reformative approach (Article 21). Article 22 talks that No person shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult and to be defended by, legal practitioner of his choice. The exception to the right is that it is not to be applied on alien. Thereby, these rights under constitution are inherent rights and cannot be altered or changed.
The case was still under investigation. The charge sheet 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.
See the point I am trying to make is that we continue to celebrate the murder of democracy, if we continue to brand people who take law in their own hand, as superheroes then we are falling right into a trap. A trap that is set in our country to bring back autocracy. The process has already started, and if you don’t believe me then google “How many news channels are owned by Reliance Industries?”
Media has the power to reach into every drawing room; the power to tell you what to read, see and think. The fourth pillar of democracy has taken a massive hit, as a result of that, our beloved democracy is crumbling, please don’t add on to those factors that will eventually break our democracy.
Killing people while they’re in your custody shows that you’re impotent but protecting people when they’re on their own shows your competency.
P.S. Democracy is government by discussion, and, if you make discussion fearful, you are not going to get a democracy, no matter how you count the votes.