In Hyderabad, all norms were set aside to stage an encounter that raises questions.
Extra-judicial killings may satiate a country’s desire for insta-justice, but it is a perversion of law that needs to be discouraged, probed and its perpetrators need to be punished.
Every country needs to be run by the rule of law, not through arbitrary, illegal devices of punishment. It is for these reasons the euphoria over the ‘encounter’ killing of four men accused of rape and murder of a veterinarian by cops in Hyderabad in the early hours of Friday is a cause for concern.
The rule of law in every democracy is premised on a simple but universal truth: nobody is guilty till proven by the courts of justice.
This principle implies that every person accused of a crime is entitled to a fair trial and recourse to legal means. Only when the due process is followed, every available option is exhausted, can the final verdict, and the consequent punishment, be pronounced.
These safeguards are in-built mechanisms for a just, fair society based on the rule of law. In Hyderabad, all these norms were set aside to stage an encounter that raises several questions.
Why were the four accused taken to the site of the incident at 3 am? How could they have tried to escape—as the cops say—when handcuffed, and surrounded by armed policemen? Even if they were trying to run away, why were they not incapacitated instead of being shot dead? These questions and the history of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh police—they have been accused of fake encounters in the past—make the entire incident shady.
The common perception within the Indian hoi polloi is that it is the job of the police to dispense punishment.
This is not true— their job is to help courts uphold the rule of law through fair and thorough investigations. Cops who assume the role of judge and jury are guilty of a crime that has to be tried by a competent court.
The power to kill in the hands of police, an arm controlled by the executive, is dangerous in a democracy—it ends up turning it into a lawless state. It sentences every citizen to death by giving police the power to assume guilt and then punish merely on the basis of an accusation.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)