No one dies a fictional death in police encounter, though the story of encounters are often just that – stories spun by the law enforcing authority, as experts would have us believe. The recent killings of four suspects of rape in Hyderabad who were murdered in police encounter once again bring the issue of extra-judicial killing to the forefront. And this time India stands divided over what to make of this case involving four men raping and burning alive an innocent girl who were later got killed allegedly in police encounter.
The crime committed by the alleged rapists created such a public outrage that many in India have hailed the police encounter and accepted it as justice delivered. While a section, equally outraged by the incident of rape and killing of an innocent, took issue with killing in encounter. They considered it as a clear derogation of the rule of law. From the human rights angle, as well as from the legal perspective, it was classic case of giving into populism, showing that the bad elements have been effaced forever to ensure social stability.
The case raises a very significant question often overlooked that if such encounters are justifiable, what need do societies have of the judicial system?
While Twitter and Facebook were buzzing with applauses, there were people of considerable social cache who vented their anger against the rapist and subscribed police actions because they too believed that the security forces have "delivered justice".
The BBC quoted the mother of the 27-year-old rape victim, who said, "Justice has been done", after the news of killings broke. While the mother who could easily equated such killings with the deliverance of justice, her neighbours and thousand others also took to the streets hailing the police action.
People's rage and extrajudicial justice
According to the Indian government figures of 2017, more than 90 cases of rapes were reported a day on average totalling a 32,559 incidents of rapes reported to the police. But as per a BBC report, the Indian courts have been struggling to deal with the soaring number of rape cases. By the end of 2017, there were more than 127,800 rape cases pending in the Indian courts.
As per the data, only 26 per cent of "all the cases that went to the court" secured convictions in between 2002 and 2011. Following the incident of 2012 Delhi gang rape case, the conviction rate slightly improved to 32 per cent. But still, the public conception that few of the crimes meet justice, leads them to applaud extrajudicial killing.
Securing convictions often take a long course given the passage of time they take to reach the courts and the pressures the victims often encounter.
Consequently, such killings sometimes brings a sense of relief. But because of this short cut to "justice" (if they could be even called so), the public attention is deflected from the major structural flaws that allows the law enforcers to play the role of the lawgivers. Perhaps such events are signs of lawlessness that finally leads to the culture of impunity to prevail over all else.
What says the law?
Following the extrajudicial killings of the alleged rapists, Sharad Arvind Bobde, the Chief Justice of India has dubbed the police actions as "revenge".
The Chief Justice said, "I don't think justice can ever be or ought to be instant. And justice must never ever take the form of revenge. I believe justice loses its character of justice if it becomes a revenge."
According to the law as per the Indian Constitution's Article 21, "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedures established by law."
The Indian law criminalises the "fake encounters" as it states this kind of extrajudicial justice has no place in a legal system governed by the rule of law.
Previously the Indian Supreme Court condemned the extrajudicial killings as "state sponsored terrorism".
Despite such condemnation from the court, the number of incidents of extrajudicial killing in India have not dropped. Rather, with the public cheering and supporting such police excesses, the incidents of mob justice too have soared in India.
Who is there to stop extrajudicial killing?
This is so because, extrajudicial killing has not only been about the support it garnered of the common people who hail such police actions as justice. When political leader like Jaya Bachchan, a Samajwadi Party MP, demanded that the criminals should be "brought out in public and lynched", one is able to assess the mob sentiment which often give basis to mob justice. There several recent incidents of mob justice in Modi's India, where Muslim men suspected of cow slaughtering were beaten to death.
Mrs Bachchan is not the only MP to have demanded such extrajudicial actions. Indian parliamentarians such as P Wilson, Ram Nath Kovind and Vijila Sathyananth also demanded that the criminals be castrated, or stripped off their mercy petition rights, or even be killed immediately by hanging.
Where does Bangladesh stand in terms of extrajudicial killing? The citizens of the country are protected by the Article 31 of the constitution. As per the article, the citizens of Bangladesh will enjoy "the the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, and only in accordance with law" because this is the "inalienable right of every citizen".
In spite of having such constitutional rights, however, there are myriads of allegations of extrajudicial killings against the law enforcers in Bangladesh, according to a recent data by Ain o Salish Kendra there were reports of 466 incidents of extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh in 2018 alone. Ain o Salish Kendra's Sheepa Hafiza said earlier this year that "We haven't seen any effective trial and punishment. This is why these crimes are recurring."