A basic principle of judicial functioning in contemporary times is that ‘no innocent should be judged guilty even if a hundred guilty persons be acquitted’. Unfortunately, in India, this has become the gateway for the guilty to remain free, entangling the courts in ropes of process, delay and unending interpretation of the laws. This has been countered by governments through ‘encounters’ increasingly focused laws, preemptive action and, the latest, bulldozer intimidation. While this restores the balance somewhat between law-breakers and law-enforcers, it has to be of very temporary nature. As such, during its duration, it also has to be very effective; otherwise it loses its sting. In the end, the innocent cannot be allowed to suffer.
Demolition of absconding offenders’ properties, bulldozing of encroachments in areas where riots have taken place are basically methods to communicate the message that, for the rule of law it has to be ensured that the strength of the system does not become its weakness. One should not be able to challenge the system if one is already compromised by illegalities committed earlier. Also, the judiciary, by spending disproportionate amounts of time on protecting the rights of offenders, has done enormous injustice to the innocent suffering from chronic delays in having their day in court. So, occasionally, the Gordian Knot has to be cut by going back to the basics.
One of the reasons for the enormous popularity of the Yogi Government in UP has been its unwillingness to be caught in the net of political correctness. It adopted a pragmatic approach to enforcing the rule of law, which has received the electorate’s approval. (Lawbreakers are deserting the Samajwadi Party in droves, post-election, as it can no longer provide political cover for their activities.) It is only natural for others to emulate Yogi to get around the trickery and blackmail indulged in by professional exploiters of the shortcomings in the system. Hopefully, in the process, some kind of a consensus will be arrived at among the constitutional institutions on thwarting such misuse. Use of force is the prerogative of the state and the effort should be to ensure its just use. Instead, violence has become the first recourse for all those with an agenda and it is government that is expected to show restraint. This is patently unfair, even ridiculous, and some pragmatic responses are needed to restore the balance.