Are extra-judicial killings the way to deliver Justice?

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The country is enraged over the horrible gang rape and murder of the veterinarian Priyanka Reddy who became a victim to the four lorry men who attempted to burn her body after the crime.

Calls were heard from all corners of the country to deliver justice and give the culprits a death sentence. In an unexpected turn of events, Telangana police have shot dead the four men accused of the brutal gang rape of the young vet in Hyderabad.

All four were accused of deflating her scooter tyre and lying in wait for her at an isolated spot by a motorway toll way. Her attackers approached her offering help, then dragged her to some bushes where they gang raped her, strangled her until she died and then drove her body to an underpass where they set it alight.

N Prakash Reddy, deputy commissioner of police in Shamshabad, said: “In the morning, at around 6-6.30, our persons have come to reconstruct the scene of crime and the accused have tried to snatch their weapons, and there was a cross-fire. In this, all the four accused have died. Two policemen have been injured.”

This sets a dangerous precedent in the country because in light of evidence and due process, they would have been sentenced to death if found guilty but this extra-judicial killing gives too much power in the hands of the police. If police is supposed to mete out justice like this, it renders the whole legal system futile.

The All India Progressive Women’s association condemned the manner in which the accused men died. “We, as a country, will now be told that ‘justice’ has been done, the victim avenged. But this justice is counterfeit. The group also said deaths of the four men at the hands of the police was telling women “we can’t ensure the streets are safe, can’t investigate crimes against women to ensure there’s enough evidence to prove guilt, can’t protect rape survivors, can’t ensure that survivors get dignity in court.”

Many Indians are expressing satisfaction with the actions of the police on social media, with some describing it as “quick justice”. But the legal experts say as per the law a probe should be immediately set up into the mysterious encounter of the four accused in the rape and murder of the Hyderabad-based veterinarian.

In the words of senior advocate Vikas Singh, the rule of law should prevail in the country, there should be an immediate inquiry into the encounter of the accused. Moreover Senior advocate Puneet Mittal said that there should immediately be a judicial probe into the matter to unearth the real picture behind this mysterious encounter. The probe should be on the factors that were behind this encounter. The families of the accused could also move the court seeking inquiry into the matter. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he agreed “in principle” that extra-judicial killings can’t be allowed. But he also said more details were needed for example 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.

The government must focus on structural reforms instead of handing police the power to deliver instant justice. A proper investigation would have delivered better justice to the deceased and her family.

There is also a need to focus on education and gender sensitization in order to teach mutual respect so that these incidents do not occur in the society.

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