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Encounter Justice


How is law and order to be enforced? This is a continuing dilemma, particularly in democratic countries, where the rights of individuals are sacrosanct. The United States, for instance, faces flak for the ‘militarisation’ of its police, as also its racist behaviour. There exist strict protocols on handling situations and enforcing the law, which are backed extensively by technology but, as the increasing number of mass shootings indicates, matters are quite out of control. In India, the police are nowhere as well trained or equipped. Their numbers, too, are well short of the ideal. The judicial processes are nowhere near as efficient as those in the US.

Under the circumstances, the search continues for a better model of law enforcement and policing. Democracies expect that the people would naturally be law-abiding, as they have a direct say in the formation of policies and governance. This is true to some extent but it is also evident that there are many who take advantage of this liberal approach to violate the norms.

In India, the system has become such that legal processes have become the punishment. The rich and the powerful have increasingly resorted to court cases to intimidate the less powerful to submit, as for them, the cost of litigation, as well as the time and effort involved is too much to bear. When a ‘Yogi Model’ of ‘bulldozer governance’ emerges in an environment where criminals have gained the upper hand, it is natural for people to feel some relief. The problem, of course, with this type of ‘encounter raj’ is that it places unaccountable power in the hands those who rule. It requires, therefore, to be practiced judiciously and equitably. In the case of Yogi Adityanath’s UP, the first criticism is that it is directed at the political opposition. This is countered by the argument that, when the opposition was in power, it functioned through the criminal mafia and, now, the chickens are coming home to roost.

In such an environment, it is natural to assume that the gunning down, on Thursday, of wanted killers Mohd Asad, son of gangster-politician Atiq Ahmed, and shooter Ghulam could have been staged. That is a perception the ruling BJP, ironically, would not be too eager to deny, as it furthers CM Adityanath’s bulldozer image. In the long run, however, it should be the aim of government to enforce the rule of law, not just in combating crime, but also in the processes involved. The culture of governance has to be based on the system and not just any one individual.