he injustice that ended the life of Priyanka Reddy, a young educated girl who had her whole life ahead is intolerable. There is nothing in the world that can give justice to her even if the entire police stations are fired; the rapists are encountered because nothing can bring her back. She was not spared from appeasement even in her death. People were angry attacking the government and police department, as they do after every rape case, but for a change all the four accused in the rape and murder of veterinarian in Telangana were killed in an encounter with the police. The accused were taken to the spot for recreation of the crime scene; however, they tried to flee from the spot following which the police had to open fire at them. They were shot dead after they tried to escape. This is all the police’s version. No law in India sanctions encounter of accused by the police. Too many among those who are reacting to this killing of gangrape and murder accused, who were under police custody, the police action was “justice” being delivered. People were seen shouting slogans in praise of the Hyderabad Police. Flowers were showered on police personnel. People were seen celebrating the police action in other parts of the country, including the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai.
Social media has split reactions but overall everyone was happy with the end. Some politicians too have justified the police action. Mayawati, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh said the police action is “commendable” and that justice has been done. She went on to say, “Had police taken a similar tough action in the case of Nirbhaya gangrape, justice could have been delivered early. Nirbhaya was gangraped and fatally injured by six persons in a moving bus at Delhi in December 2012. Four of the accused were sentenced to death. But the death sentence has not yet been executed. The mercy petition of one of the four convicts on the death row was rejected by the Delhi government on December 1 this year. The delay has led to many questioning the justice delivery system. Parents of Nirbhaya a paramedic student expressed frustration over their “unending wait for justice”. The Supreme Court made it “mandatory for a magistrate to investigate so-called encounter deaths to ensure that investigations into police encounters are carried out effectively and independently to ensure that probe into police encounters are carried out effectively and independently”. There is no law that sanctions killing of an accused of any crime, including that of rape and murder. This forms the basis for a robust judicial system. The police are an investigating agency and not entitled to adjudicate cases pronouncing verdict on someone’s criminal culpability. Declaring someone guilty falls under the jurisdiction of the courts. This is a check on police’s action lest they pick up and implicate people to bring closure to the case.
Police arrested four persons saying they committed the crime on the night of November 26-27. For those not aware of what happened in Hyderabad, a 27-year-old veterinarian was waylaid, gangraped, smothered to death and burnt. Police said the four persons arrested committed the crime. The case was still under investigation. The chargesheet had not been filed. Trial had not begun. The court was yet to hear the accused and the prosecution. It was not yet proven that the accused who were shot dead were the actual culprits of the gangrape and murder. And, even if they were the culprits, the police were not authorised to take their lives. It is also not clear if the accused were capable by means of being armed or something similar to pose threat to life or lives of the policemen who took them for recreating the crime scene. For, only in the case of self-defence, causing death is not a crime under the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. As a benefit of a doubt, it is also not yet clear whether the police used all means to capture the accused when they allegedly tried to escape. However, there are certain provisions that have been cited to partially allow a police person to cause death of an accused.
Section 96 of the IPC says nothing is an offence which is done in the exercise of the right of private defence. IPC Section 100 lists outs situations under the right to private defence. It includes a scenario where the assaulter has a reasonable apprehension that she would be grievously hurt or killed if she does not act in self-defence. Then there is CrPC Section 46 that says if an accused or suspect forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him or attempts to evade the arrest, the police may use “all means necessary to effect the arrest”. It also states that nothing gives police “a right to cause a death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life.” This has been interpreted at times to mean that in cases where offence is punishable with death or life imprisonment, extra-judicial killing or encounter as they are popularly referred to in India is an option available to the police. But the Supreme Court in the 2015 case laid out a detailed 16-point guideline to judge every extra-judicial killing. The Hyderabad encounter is one such case of extra-judicial killing that ought to come to clean passing the Supreme Court guidelines scrutinised by a trained jurist to restore people’s faith in the rule of law that declares right to life is fundamental and asserts a life can be taken by the State only in accordance with the law.
A girl gets smothered, raped and burnt just because she was ALONE. Let that sink in. Just imagine what she must be going through those moments? What she must be thinking? You don’t want to imagine, right? What was her fault? Her only fault is simply being born in this country. A country where women are told to be safe but men are not asked to behave. Women are told to not wear revealing clothes, not to go out when it’s late in a country where victims don’t get speedy justice. Well! How many more cases do we need to put a stop to this? We all know she was not the FIRST one and she cannot be the LAST as well. But the encounter of the rapist was something solacing and new to heal the wounds.
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