A Word to Supporters of Extrajudicial Killing

The news of the four accused in the sensational Hyderabad rape case being shot dead by police in an alleged encounter is worrying. But what is more alarming is the fact that many educated and otherwise sane persons support this extrajudicial killing as a case of justice served.

If one were to say “I kill those that I feel like killing”, almost everyone will agree that such arbitrary killing is unjustified. If it comes down to “I kill those that I do not like”, most people will still consider it wrong but might think that there is at least a reason for it. If we further change it to “I kill those who commit grave crimes”, surprisingly, many people now stop seeing anything wrong in it. If you ask me, the difference in these is essentially in presentation

This is because there is hardly any logic or reason to human like and dislike. The decision on what crimes deserve death is also arbitrary and subjective. So to kill those that I think committed a grave offense is as arbitrary as killing those I do not like or killing people whoever I want to.

Now, some may be willing to overlook this second crime because all they want is for the victim of the first crime to get justice. But, ironically, such an act of killing accused without due judicial process also denies justice to the victim of the original crime. What if these accused are falsely implicated to save someone else? What if there are others involved, whose connection to the crime will never be exposed because those who know of it are no more?

Even if it were true that the accused committed the crime and that no one else was involved, how can an individual think of themselves as qualified to pass judgment on somebody else’s life? Let no human be foolish enough to think of themselves as wise enough to decide on who deserves to live and who to die.

I think that murder is a crime. This is so, irrespective of whether those who killed wore police uniform or civilian clothes; irrespective of whether the victim is accused of a crime or thought to be innocent; irrespective of whether it has the approval of a large section of the population or not.

If such an act is committed by those who are supposed to uphold law and justice, it is an even bigger issue. This is why I would be less appalled by a murder committed by drug-peddlers, more worried by one that is done by a mob of ordinary citizens, and utterly disturbed when carried out by policemen on duty. This is also why the most exemplary punishment needs to be meted out in cases where perpetrators of crime are law enforcers who used their authority and privilege to subvert the very law from which they derive it.

In this case, the policemen involved in this murder have to be punished after due enquiry. If it is found that they planned to execute the accused, then they (and anyone above them who knew about it) should be charged with premeditated murder. If the accused did try to escape and were shot to prevent their escape (which is very hard to believe), then these policemen should be punished for incompetence and lack of planning. When taking accused to the scene of the crime, it is their responsibility to keep them safe and in custody. In this case, they have clearly failed in their duty.

Policemen, soldiers, judges, are all human. Sometimes they have to make decisions that involve taking a life, and it is a burden they carry. When it comes to that, the best they can do is to ensure that they follow all due process, all formalities that are laid down in law of the land that they serve and affirm that it is the law which is taking the due course, they being only an instrument. Instead, if they think of themselves as masters over the lives of others, they forfeit the right to play that role any more. While such individuals pose a threat to society, it is to themselves that they do the greatest harm. In their zeal to enforce the law and serve justice, they end up being what they despise the most.

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