JUSTICE LOSES CHARACTER IF IT BECOMES REVENGE (with reference to Hyderabad Encounter)

  The Author of this blog is Mr. Rishav Ray, a student of 2nd year, BA LLB(Hons.) at School of Law, Christ University, Bangalore 

In the early hours of 6th December, 2019, the Telengana Police shot dead all the four accused in the Disha Rape and Murder case.[1] A couple of hours after the incident, a large crowd gathered at the site to celebrate the incident. Chants glorifying the police echoed and the spot where the 27 – year- old veteran’s body was found a week ago was showered with flowers. This incident took the internet by storm and according to the BBC reports, more than 300,000 tweets were made in relation to this incident and most were voices in support of this action.[2] While there were waves of support for this incident, there were also a considerable number of voices criticising it.

In order to critique this incident it is necessary for one to understand the facts of the indecent. According to the Police officials, the accused were taken back to crime scene in order to reconstruct the sequence of the criminal incident. The suspects tried to escape and attacked the police. The accused stole one of their guns and started firing at the policemen.  The police justified that they were forced to open fire upon the four accused in self-defence, due to which they died. Scrutiny of the details of this incident would help to analyse whether this was a ‘staged encounter killing’ or not. However this alone is not the sole reason for concern of the legal fraternity. The glorification of this extra-judicial killing and coining the term ‘Justice’ for it is the real cause of concern.

Rape can undoubtedly be called one of the most heinous and inhumane crimes. It is an issue which disturbs the mind of every right-thinking person, boils the blood of the people. Emotions take over their minds and they want revenge in form of what they call as ‘instant justice’. When an individual reads about such an incident in news or social media, it fills him/her with disgust and detestation; such is the inhumane character of this crime. Whenever such an incident is reported by the media, the social media rages with fire, country-wide there are candle marches and protests demanding the rapists to be hanged. A thing to be noted here is that the demand to ‘Hang the rapists’ is an appeal to the judiciary seeking justice. This was also the case in Disha’s incident. Now, if the appeal was made to the judiciary, why did the people celebrate the extra-judicial killing?

It has got primarily two reasons. The first reason being the meandering pace of the Indian judicial system. According to the reports of National Crime Records Bureau, more than 128,000 rape cases were pending trial in the Indian Courts by the end of 2017( latest data as per the Government) and the conviction rate being around 25%.[3] Even in cases which have been decided and the accused were found guilty, the execution of punishment is delayed for years. Biggest example of this is the Nirbhaya case[4].  It took over seven long years for Nirbhaya’s family to get justice. These create frustration in the minds of the people. Nirbhaya’s mother was among the first people to hail the Police’s action in Disha’s case.  This is declining the faith in the judicial system and leading to demand for instant justice.

Another reason is thirst for revenge. The main demand of the people is the death of the rapists. They look for the end result and the procedure is not their concern. Rape is a heinous crime and capital punishment is what the offenders deserve. But what matters is the procedure. People supporting this encounter are in a way encouraging the application of ‘Hamurabi’s Code’ which promotes ‘eye for an eye’; giving the name of justice to revenge.

There is a popular saying by Gandhiji that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. The fundamental aim of corrective justice is restoring or reinstating the parties to the positions they were in, before occurrence of the offence.[5] The fundamental aim of criminal justice is deterring future offences by reforming the offender.[6] Justice will fail its primary purpose if it is turned into revenge. If extra-judicial killings become the norm of the day, the entire judiciary will fail and cease having any use. Revenge is emotional, justice is prudent. It is an undisputed fact that the four men killed in this ‘Hyderabad encounter’ were accused and not yet convicted. It is by media trial that they were termed rapists. There has been a violation of the legal fundamental of ‘Audi alteram partem’ which essentially means ‘let the other side be heard’. They accused were not tried by the court and thus their ‘Right to fair trial’ which is a Human right under Article 10 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights, had been taken away from them. This is a gross failure of justice. While the public hail this incident, if the perspective is altered it is very significant that injustice has been done to the accused.

This incident has set a very negative precedence for similar future cases. It is comparatively easier for the Prosecution to kill off the accused than to gather evidence and prove them guilty in the court of law. Glorification of such acts would definitely serve as an incentive and would motivate the police to take resort to this process. If we take into consideration, the Me Too movement, it is undeniable that maximum number of cases reported, were true but there were also some false allegations.  Imagine the fate of justice if the police conducted mass extra-judicial killings of the alleged without giving them a fair trial. There would be loss of innocent lives.  As Hale wrote, ‘for it is better five guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should die’. When an incident like a rape takes place, there already exists a bias against the accused, on part of the public and the Prosecution. It is due to this bias that the public seeks revenge. The concept of justice is completely different from this. Justice needs to be free from all biases and emotions. Revenge fails justice. Justice and revenge are completely different terms and can never be equated together.

[1] Pinto Deepak,“Guns Settle Disha Case”, The New Indian Express, Dec. 6, 2019.

[2] Geeta Pandey, “Hyderabad case: Why Indians are celebrating the killings”, BBC News, Delhi, December 6, 2019, available at - https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50683615 (last visited on August 28, 2020).

[3] Diti Pujara, Gurman Bhatia, Karishma Singh and Raju Gopalakrishnan, “Statistics On Rape In India And Some Well-known Cases”, Reuters, December 6, 2019, available at - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-rape-factbox/statistics-on-rape-in-india-and-some-well-known-cases-idUSKBN1YA0UV (last visited on August 29, 2020).

[4] Mukesh & Anr v State for NCT of Delhi & Ors (2017) 6 SCC 1.

[5] Miller, David, “Justice”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), available at - https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/justice (last visited on August 30, 2020)

[6] Kathleen Daly, Aims of the criminal justice system”, ResearchGate,( January 1, 2003), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/29451914_Aims_of_the_Criminal_Justice_System (last visited on August 29, 2020).