The Hyderabad, alleged, encounter is a blatant blot on the Republic of India, and a sheer betrayal of our Constitutional commitments. This, prima facie, seems to be a staged murder orchestrated by the State. The story of the police, that they had to open fire in self-defense, appears to be a crystal-clear concocted narrative. No one in their right state of mind can buy this logic, because to buy this logic means defying one’s common sense.
The police claimed that the alleged accused tried to overpower the armed police personnel with sticks and stones. They added that the alleged accused managed to snatch their arms and started firing at the police force in order to escape. This forced retaliation on the part of the police that led to their deaths, they argued. This is not merely a farcical reasoning proffered by the police, but also encompasses enormous confidence that, irrespective of the ludicrousness of logic, they can get away with it.
Cyberabad’s current Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar has a shoddy history of proffering similar reasoning for similar encounter killings in the past. In 2008, three men, accused in an acid attack case, were shot in a similar encounter by the police. Sajjanar was then the Superintendent of Police, Warangal, and had advanced astonishingly similar reasons in defense of police actions.
This time too, he presented to us the same stale script of self-defense. The legal sanctity of the doctrine of self-defense doesn’t stay in the statute book to extend shelter to someone’s murderous mentality. It is not there to harbour someone’s homicidal habits.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Police have a pernicious past of indulging in extrajudicial killings. A recent RTI response from NHRC too revealed that Andhra Pradesh topped in fake encounter cases. VC Sajjanar simply continued this ignominious legacy of trampling India’s Constitutional values with nearly absolute impunity.
This is the danger of de facto impunity once it is accorded to a police officer by snubbing his glaring illegalities. It starts acquiring a monstrous momentum that, in turn, can gain the potential to put democracy at peril. Such cold-blooded murders relegate rule of law to a ridiculous idea of justice.
The world at large saw the dreadful acts of terrorists Ajmal Kasab and his companions on live television, massacring the masses by invading India’s sovereignty. But yet, after being caught alive, this country gave him his rights of legal defense. He had his lawyer arguing for years before he was convicted and hanged.
It enhanced India’s image as a robust republic in global eyes. Democracy is nothing sans due process. The idea of due process runs deep into the body and spirit of a democratic republic. On this count, the Hyderabad alleged encounter fails our fundamental Constitutional beliefs.
No country becomes a democracy merely because it is declared so in its Constitutional document. It has to earn its reputation of being one over a considerable period of time through its democratic actions. There are many totalitarian regimes across this world that call itself democracies, but the people know that they are not. This is because they have not earned it. This is because their actions defy their words.
India is a democracy, not merely because we have declared to be one in our fundamental legal document, but because we have earned it over a period of time. India cannot afford to rupture its hard-earned reputation of a robust republic.
Audi Alterem Partem is one of the fundamental tenets of natural justice. It implies that an accused too must be accorded a fair hearing. Article 21 in the Constitution of India also argues for the same principle. It guarantees Constitutional protection against arbitrary State actions. To violate this Constitutional sanctity means to crush the credibility of a democracy, and the cornerstone upon which it stands.
I agree that in India, the justice delivery system is too sluggish to conquer people’s beliefs. But, at the same time, I must say that vigilantism can never be a valid response to such sluggishness. The people are the real stakeholders in a democracy. It entrusts a greater responsibility at our shoulders to ceaselessly fight for the establishment of a proper and responsive system.
Our duties, in a democracy, do not terminate at polling booths. The people should invariably keep fighting for political accountability, police accountability, judicial accountability, and bureaucratic accountability. The solution will emanate from there, not from demanding frontier justice.
When people and Parliamentarians celebrate such seemingly State-orchestrated brutalities, they are ostensibly trying to hoist the ‘flag of fiasco’ as a mark of victory. The celebration of the killing of our Constitutional values can be termed nothing but a fiasco.
The celebration of such chilling chicanery in the name of encounters symbolises a cessation of our willingness to march towards a civilised society. India cannot march back to a darker age. Despite all it’s failing and flaws, India is a democracy and it must remain one.
Our Constitutional and Civilizational values do not imbibe the idea of celebrating barbarism. In a Constitutional democracy, insanity must perish and sanity must prevail.