Killing of rape accused by Hyderabad police is no cause for cheer

| Updated on December 06, 2019

The reactionary urge to mete out instant justice does disservice to the legal process and the cause of women’s safety

The accolades heaped on the Hyderabad police as they shot dead four men in custody for the brutal rape and murder of a young woman reflect a dangerous turn towards populism and anarchy. Regrettably, eminent parliamentarians led the celebrations and even a serving officer of the Delhi Police felt emboldened enough to publicly congratulate his counterparts in Hyderabad for killing four unarmed men whose crime had not yet been established in a court of law. This is a moment to pause and reflect on whether India has taken a step towards normalising knee-jerk and patently unconstitutional methods. The killings are being hailed as a mark of commitment to women safety at a time when victims of rape have been struggling against police excesses, and due procedure is being violated with impunity. On Wednesday, a woman from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh was doused with kerosene and set on fire by two men who had just been released on bail for allegedly raping her. In a scandalous instance of police collusion with political authority, again in Unnao, UP, a minor’s complaint of gang rape in which BJP MLA from Balamau Kuldeep Singh Sengar was the prime accused, was initially not registered in 2017. The rape survivor’s father was implicated in a false case and died after he was beaten up in police custody. Following public outcry, the Allahabad High Court ordered a CBI probe and the MLA was arrested.

As is evident from these routine instances of unprofessionalism and sheer depravity in the police force, the need of the hour surely is to address chronic weaknesses in basic policing, prosecution and investigation. Studies have pointed out that retributive justice measures like the shooting by Hyderabad police, the death penalty, public hanging, chemical castration et al actually lead to a drop in the conviction rate, with the police closing ranks to refuse even registration of cases. This is because the reactionary urge to mete out instant justice is ignorant of the reality that neither the Nirbhaya rape case nor the gruesome incident in Hyderabad is typical of routine sexual crimes in India. As opposed to the stereotype of rape occurring in lonely places and committed by unknown assailants, the fact is that most sexual crimes happen within the sanctity of homes. The assailants are usually people known to survivors and close relatives — even fathers. Would families of a young girl report such instances if they believe the accused may be shot dead without procedure?

To redress crimes against women, extreme diligence rather than populism should set the tone. The collective cry for mob justice is not just ethically repugnant in a civilised society; it actually serves to harm the interests of women.

Published on December 06, 2019

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