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Miscarriage of justice

A case closed is certainly not an issue addressed

Miscarriage of justice

A case may be dismissed but it does not stop the issue from persisting. The nation had once again got together demanding justice for the heinous rape and murder of the 25-year-old Hyderabad vet when it when it woke up to an unexpected conclusion of the 'case' on Friday morning. The four culprits of the gangrape and murder of the 25-year-old doctor were shot dead by a team of the Hyderabad Police which claimed the accused tried to flee during the recreation of crime scene in the early hours of Friday. This 'encounter' might have put this particular matter to rest but with respect to rules and methods, no law in India sanctions encounter of accused by police. Although many see this as a delivery of justice and rejoice singing praises of Hyderabad police, form a long term perspective, the question is only muted and a issue of crime against women persists with the spot light gone from over it. This encounter has clearly split the audience into one group that celebrates this result as justice done promptly and another that are gravely critical of how matters have unfolded and articulate their concern regarding extra-judicial killings. As questions on circumstances surrounding the encounter death and the debate over justice continues, the departed victim's family feel vindicated; her father said he was very happy that all the four accused were killed and thanked the police and Telangana government for it. "We watched on TV that they were killed in an encounter. We are very happy. Even people are happy. I thank the Telangana government and police for the encounter. I thank everyone who stood by us," he said. The victim's sister expressed hope that the encounter killing would scare others indulging in such crimes against women. "We are happy. We did not expect this [killing in encounter]. We thought they would be hanged through courts," she said. This horrific incident of rape instantly brings in context the similar case of the symbolic "Nirbhaya" (the 23-year-old paramedic student who died days after being gang raped) in December 2012 in the national capital. Welcoming this news, Nirbhaya's mother, appealed to authorities to not punish the policemen involved in the encounter. Nirbhaya's father said the family's wait for justice ended early. "The family of the Hyderabad doctor will not have to wait for justice for seven years like us. Police did the right thing," he said. As a matter of deterrence, the encounter killings of accused certainly sends out a message loud and clear that wrong-doers have no escape and that being nabbed after committing such crimes, 'justice' will be served; but, on the other side of the coin is the far more dangerous possibility of the misuse of this method to instantly close a case. However, if this particular incident is garnering support, it is primarily because the impulse and the extent of public outrage has overshadowed the other possible consequences of such an occurrence. Some politicians too have justified the police action. The former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and BSP supremo Mayawati expressed the police action is "commendable" and that justice has been done, adding that "Had police taken a similar tough action in the case of Nirbhaya gangrape, justice could have been delivered early."

The encounter death of the rapists has clearly split opinions into extremes, where, on the other hand, steady and rational voices continue to uphold that extra-judicial killings are unacceptable. Congress leader and parliamentarian Dr. Shashi Tharoor struck a note of caution with this opinion of his. "Agree in principle. We need to know more, for instance if the criminals were armed, the police may have been justified in opening fire preemptively. Until details emerge we should not rush to condemn. But extra-judicial killings are otherwise unacceptable in a society of laws," Tharoor expressed through a tweet. Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy has been explicit and on point in her criticism that "Now nobody will ever know if the four men killed by the police were innocent men, arrested fast to show action. And whether four of the most brutal rapists roam free, to rape and kill more women." Although such an act by the team of Hyderabad police could warrant an independent judicial enquiry, the death of the perpetrators in the wake of public outrage has tided over the systemic malfunction. It remains a very relevant concern that justice ought to have been done through proper legal channels, in a manner that is justifiable and acceptable in its entirity. Parliamentarian and BJP leader Maneka Gandhi has emphatically opined that encounter is not the solution, and that what happened in Hyderabad is not right and the law should have taken its course. She expressed boldly the truth that the encounter sets a "horrifying" precedent for the country. The former Union Women and Child Development Minister told addressing the press that "Jo bhi hua hai bohot bhayanak hua hai is desh ke liye [What happened was horrifying for the country]... You cannot kill people because you want to. You cannot take law in your hands, they [accused] would have been hanged by court anyhow". In a very bluntly expressed tweet, Taslima Nasreen posted earlier that "People love violence. So when you give a solution to rape like hang the rapists, lynch them, castrate them, murder them—people just love the idea. But when you say educate men about women's equality, fight patriarchy & misogyny, eradicate women's oppression—people won't like it." Rajya Sabha Member Jaya Bachchan's opinion of "lynching" the culprits may have garnered popular support but a truer long-term solution lies in fixing the malady at its roots: in society, among people. Laws and agencies of the state can provide immediate solutions to a problem (like the wipe-out in an encounter) but they do not remedy the cause of the problem. If any real justice is to be expected, efforts must be made to address the situation with a long-term vision. Pushing for capital punishment for convicted rapists will create fear and possibly deter many from indulging in any such act but a more civilised method of prevention is to educate and sensitise people to voluntarily refrain from engaging in such misdeeds—this is a lasting solution to addressing the distressing situation of crimes—not eliminating the criminal altogether and believing that an eye for an eye is justice served. If people are happy over the encounter, it is still a worrying situation, it speaks of the faith people have in the criminal justice system and the rule of law. It is a fact that no law in India sanctions encounter of accused by police. Further, Section 46 of CrPC says that if an accused or suspect forcibly resists the endeavor to arrest him or attempts to evade the arrest, the police may use "all means necessary to effect the arrest"—emphasising that it is the arrest that is of paramount significance. The CrPC section also states that nothing gives police "a right to cause a death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life." This is subject to interpretation and that Hyderabad matter has taken a different turn altogether, from a criminal case to one subject to judicial enquiry. But, at the end of the day, the question of crime against women remains unanswered.

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