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Crowds baying for the blood of rapists and murderers should remain in movies like Simmba – we need to consider legalities if we have to remain a civil society.
The point of justice is to give one their due. But what their due is, how it must be given, and at what point, should best be determined by those vested with the duty to do so, which is the very hallmark of a democratic society.
To take justice in one’s own hands, to dispense justice and to determine what that justice would look like unilaterally is no less than flouting established procedure and respect for basic human rights.
All four suspects (because these men were not tried by court and proven beyond doubt to be the ones who committed the crime) involved in the rape and murder case in Hyderabad were killed in a police encounter. They were reportedly taken to the scene of crime for a reconstruction of events at around 3:00 AM, and the police suggest that they had tried to escape, even attacking the police in the process. This, they said, made it necessary to shoot them, and that all four had died in the process.
The internet is steadily divided into two: those that celebrate this and those that don’t. A lot of people on both sides, though, do betray a sense of being confused as to the truth of these statements.
The police were initially reluctant to file an FIR and were seemingly keen on foisting elopement on part of the victim.
Eventually, an FIR was drawn up, the four were presented before an executive magistrate instead of a regular one, who remanded them to judicial custody. The police asked for custody to interrogate the men, and the judiciary allowed it.
Why not in the daytime?
If the plan was to reconstruct the crime and to take the accused to the site, what prevented them from doing so during the day? As the police, they have the right to cordon off an area for investigations that can happen in the day, too.
Where were the handcuffs, the heavy guard?
As the author of this well-thought out article noted, when any suspect, accused, or convicted criminal is taken out of the prison cell for investigations, interrogations or trials, they are always under heavy observation with guards, handcuffs, and policemen around them. Assuming this was the case in this context, it is likely that the four of the accused may have been taken to the site with adequate police details and resources.
How the escape, and where from their weapons?
It doesn’t seem clear how the accused had any weapons of their own to attack the police.
The law says, ‘stop them from escaping’ – not ‘kill’
The law allows the police the authority to use violence with a firearm to strike only the lower part of the body in order to prevent them from moving, in scenarios involving escape. This does not extend to killing them.
Insofar as any information on this incident goes, there is no clarity on where the accused were shot, and how many times at that, to have been killed on the spot.
Encounter justice is, at best, not justice at all. It is vigilantism and endorses the notion that one can assume the power to be the judge and executioner themselves and paves the way to a destructive anarchy that there is no coming back from.
At its base, encounter justice does not address the root cause of your muscle pull, which could be anything from a poor posture to incorrect movement. It does not go to the root cause and tell you how you can stop this from happening. It does not even try to take away the possibility of it happening again. Which means, if you’re not going to address the root cause, it is likely to happen again.
Quite the same way, mob justice is not wholesome justice. It does not address the root cause. If fear was a deterrent, crime would have stopped after the first death penalty. Look at the ecosystem that props a crime.
As Tasleema Nasreen wrote on twitter:
“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.”
The saddest truth in this is that the language of violence has been normalized to such an extent that the lines blur and room for empathy driven logic is lost.
Last year, at around this time, I wrote a regretful review of Simmba, where the protagonist is a police officer who does exactly this. I didn’t think for a second that this year would see real scenes of this kind unfold. Not once.
Image source: a still from the movie Simmba
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