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Black Rage Over Rape

Police and judiciary must be equipped to fast track justice in rape cases

All the four accused in the rape and murder of the Hyderabad veterinarian were shot dead by the Telangana police in the early hours of Friday while allegedly ‘trying to flee.’ The police action drew applause from sections of women, which was a reflection of their anger and revulsion. The police have also been praised by several politicians for delivering ‘quick justice’ to the victim. The killings have set off a countrywide debate on the sloth in the criminal justice delivery system. It is the failure of the police and judiciary to deliver fast justice to victims of rape that has forced people to welcome extrajudicial action of the law enforcement authorities. Many have said that with the killing of the accused justice has been done to the victim, but the action of police has also raised many questions. Even as one chapter is closed with the ‘elimination’ of the accused, another is set to be opened to at least verify the claims of police in justifying the shooting of the accused.

Those believing in instant justice may readily accept the contention of the Telangana police that they acted in self defence. But those who believe in fair justice will not be willing to accept what the police did to the accused. No doubt the accused had done the most savage and barbaric acts upon the victim; they raped and burnt her to death. However, it was for the court to decide what punishments to give to the accused.

Providing faster justice does not mean that the due process of law be set aside. Justice should appear to have been done even to the accused who are perceived as monsters. The police have justified the killings by claiming that two of the accused snatched pistols from them. The accused were taken to the crime site to reconstruct the crime scene as required under the law. Why were the pistols unlocked? Were the police anticipating an attack from the four unarmed accused even when they were ten in number and had come armed to deal with any eventuality? Were the accused who were drivers or cleaners trained in handling firearms that they were motivated to snatch arms from policemen and fire at them? Why were all four shot dead when only two had allegedly snatched guns and fired at the policemen?

The nation cries for faster delivery of criminal justice but our judiciary has failed to satisfy them. December 16 will be seven years since the Nirbhaya case was reported. Those responsible for that crime have not yet been punished. After Nirbhaya hundreds of rape cases have been reported but justice has eluded the victims. With the quick arrest of those accused of rape and murder in Hyderabad, people had expected faster justice as the case was to be heard by a fast track court. However, the action of the police to liquidate them has made people wonder whether the Telangana government wanted a shortcut to deliver justice. One of MPs, Jaya Bachchan called for lynching of the accused. If a person of her stature and maturity can champion instant justice, we would not be surprised if she endorses the medieval justice that fanatical Muslim groups practise in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde has denounced the Hyderabad police encounter and said justice would lose its character if it became revenge. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is making an inquiry into the encounter. Let us hope the inquiry lays out the truth about certain questions before the nation, such as: why did not the policemen fire at the four accused’s legs as per the laid-down procedure?  Encounters have been commonly used by law enforcement agencies in the country to deal with the Maoists and gangsters. The failure of the system to provide security to women is what is making the women angry and supportive of instant justice through encounters. Demands have been raised from the families of other rape victims that the men who committed sexual brutality against them should also be shot dead. The police and judiciary must be given all the human and technological resources they need to fast track justice delivery in rape cases.

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