The nationwide celebrations at the killing of the four Hyderabad rape-murder accused by the police are basically a slap in the face of the Indian Judiciary. People are happy at the police for having acted as judge, jury and executioner, as they believe it is a deliberate and planned act. Nobody is buying the story that the accused were killed while attempting to escape. That people are willing to accept such an act indicates their frustration with the manner in which rapists and murderers live on for decades despite being sentenced to death owing to the miserable pace of justice in the country, such as the Nirbhaya killers. Some are released on bail and go on to kill their accuser, as in the recent Unnao case. And it is not just the popular mood, even in the ‘temple of democracy’, Parliament, a large number of MPs could be heard seeking public lynching of such perpetrators. This, despite most of them knowing the long term consequences on society and governance of such fake encounters!
The Hyderabad encounter explains the silence of the Telangana Chief Minister after the murder of the veterinarian. The orders for the extra-judicial execution must have come from him, which will find justification in the court of public opinion. It seems that he has taken inspiration from President Duterte of the Philippines, who has had a long, successful and openly declared ‘encounter raj’.
India’s experience though has been consistently bad, as adopting such means to deal with criminal gangs swiftly deteriorated to an unbridled, corrupt and lawless police force that preyed upon the poor and the marginalised. It has taken many such experiments and consequent reforms to bring some kind of accountability in the force. Incidents like those in Hyderabad, Unnao and other places cannot be allowed to provide justification for such illegality.
The Hyderabad Police failed in its first role of preventing the rape-murder. It faced a lot of flak, with the natural criticism of the government that followed. Now, through the populist decision to execute the accused, it may earn some popularity, but has closed the door to steps that would have increased its professional capacity. Hypothetically, now, in high-profile cases, all the police needs to do is pick up some poor persons and deliver this type of justice. Of course, in cases where the perpetrators will be rich and influential, with a battery of lawyers by their side, it will not dare to do so. The only solution is deep judicial reform. Otherwise, India will slide into more of such officially sanctioned lynching.