The nation woke up to a surprising development today, even as four accused in the Hyderabad rape and murder case. A celebratory video even shows girl students cheering to the news of the encounter. As per another report, locals showered rose petals on the police officers at the spot where the accused in the rape and murder case were killed in an encounter.
The police maintain that the accused had attacked the police and tried to escape resulting in this encounter. Cyberabad Police Commissioner, Sajjanar said, “The police warned them and asked them to surrender but they continued to fire. Then we opened fire and they were killed in the encounter. During the encounter, two policemen have been injured and they have been shifted to the local hospital.”
It is not very difficult to understand why women, children, everyone is hailing the police, particularly the Cyberabad Police Commissioner, Sajjanar as heroes. They see the encounter as “speedy justice”, at a time when the conscience of the society stands shaken by gruesome crimes similar to the one committed in Hyderabad.
The fact remains that our criminal procedure has remained sluggish over the years. Pendency of rape cases, including some heart-wrenching, and heinous rape and murder cases remain pending before the judiciary. This has led to the society inculcating a sense of justice-starvation. A bulk of the society does not even care whether the encounter was legitimate or fake, because they feel that trial and sentencing would have lingered on for years, frustrating the ends of justice. Therefore, they simply hail the police officers as heroes after this encounter.
— ANI (@ANI) December 6, 2019
Hyderabad: Locals had showered rose petals on Police personnel at the spot where accused in the rape and murder of the woman veterinarian were killed in an encounter earlier today pic.twitter.com/66pOxK1C2b
— ANI (@ANI) December 6, 2019
A deep sense of disillusionment has set in given the snail’s pace at which trials move. Nirbhaya’s mother still does not get justice in the truest form despite the shocking incident triggering a nation-wide outrage. Shockingly, a mercy petition, in this case, is still doing the rounds. This has virtually led to a large chunk of the society losing belief and faith in the law and criminal justice system. This is the reason why the society is now looking up to extra-judicial methods for getting timely justice.
The perception that it will take a long time to bring the perpetrators to justice in the country’s courts is the root cause behind the sense of societal melancholy. This delay in justice delivery system has also failed the cause of women safety as far as creating a deterrent effect against the lascivious elements in the society is concerned. In the year 2003 itself the Malimath Committee report had stressed upon certainty of conviction and expeditious disposal of rape cases in order to create a deterrent effect. However, 16 years later expeditious disposal of rape cases remains a far cry.
Even after the Nirbhaya case, the stress of the Criminal Amendment Act that followed was on augmenting the quantum of punishment and not on expeditious disposal of rape cases. The consequences have not been encouraging. All that the legislature has done is to enact a provision in the Cr.P.C. requiring that trial shall be, “as far as possible” completed within two months. This is a cruel joke played out by the legislature on the criminal justice system.
No special procedure has been provided for the fast-track courts which have been set up to deal with the rape cases. These fast track courts have to rely on the ordinary criminal procedure, which is time-consuming. While the requirement of two months is to be complied with “as far as possible”, other procedural provisions are mandatory which must be complied with. After all, judicial discretion cannot override parliamentary wisdom and therefore the Courts are bound by the slow and cumbersome procedure.
A court does not become a “fast-track court” only because it is named as such, the legislature must also arm it with special powers and procedure. If you give the Courts a time-consuming, ordinary criminal procedure along with a huge backlog of cases, you cannot expect the judges and judicial magistrates to deliver speedy justice.
The legislature must also decide which cases deserve ‘mercy’ and which cases warrant outright condemnation. How those convicted in gruesome rape and murder cases have been able to delay the execution of death sentences is rather unconscionable.
Procedure is the handmaid of justice and if the procedure frustrates the ends of justice, rather than advancing them, then the fault lies with the legal procedure and not with a justice starved society which feels threatened with the presence of brutal criminal elements going unpunished. The fact that people had to hail the encounter, without caring much about the question of legitimacy, is a wake-up call for the country’s legislature and the judiciary. The larger public opinion seems to reflect that such elements commuting heinous crimes are not being deterred because they are not being punished quickly enough. What we need is effective fast-track courts armed with special, shortened criminal procedure in order to accelerate the pace at which trials in rape cases are disposed and those convicted are pushed to the gallows.