Brij Nath Betab
‘I say ninety percent of Indians are idiots .You people do not have brains in your heads. It is so easy to take you for a ride.’ These words of Justice Markandey Katju in a seminar many years ago suddenly bounce back in my memory as I set out to express my views on the recent episode of the killing by police of four accused in a rape and murder case. The way the police personnel received a heroic welcome after the news of the fatal injuries to the accused persons in ‘retaliatory firing’ was flashed on news channels and the mob jubilation at many places across the length and breadth of the country made his words emphatic. The instant debates on news channels ‘saluting the police’ for their bravery was worth watching. From news anchors to women activists and from celebrities to common people the mood was of jubilation. The jubilation was in a way in retaliation to the judicial procrastination that has shaken a common man’s faith in the justice delivery system in the country. When about 30 million cases are pending in various courts and some as old as ten years the “instant justice” seems to be “substantive justice”. However no sooner did the hype die down questions started being raised. We know what these questions are and I feel it would be better if we do not try to pass judgements and leave these questions for those to answer who are entrusted with the duty of enforcing law and order and those whose mandate is dispensation of justice in our democratic set up.
I, in my mind, am however very clear that any offender of law and any criminal shall face the law and justice shall prevail. And if the crime is of rape and murder that shall certainly be treated as the most heinous crime and the culprit must be given death sentence, but, after the due process of the law. A rapist shall not have the right to live, more so if he kills or sets ablaze the victim after committing the heinous crime. But a criminal and for that matter any accused has to be proved guilty and that is the job of the justice delivery system, the police and the Judiciary. The Hon’ble Supreme Court had in 2014 laid down sixteen ‘Requirements for thorough, effective and independent investigation into deaths caused in police encounters.’ After the Nirbhaya case the Criminal Law was also amended to make punishment for rape and other offences against women more stringent. And it is the police in our society who have to register the case and investigate. The police in such cases request the judiciary for custody of the accused. Here also the four accused were given to police custody for ten days. And in the words of a senior lawyer I too hope that the police that claimed the killing of the rape accused ‘in retaliation of weapon snatching and attack ‘on them will have enough and foolproof evidence with them that shall justify the action they took.
We in our country are fortunate that our police is professionally trained and their own and their family’s sacrifices in ensuring safe public life of the citizens is hugely commendable. Today policemen have a bigger challenge of containing terrorism other than the task of maintaining law and order. We have innumerable instances of police personnel offering highest sacrifices in the call of duty. In the words of the Hon’ble Prime Minister ‘the police personnel work hard in adverse circumstances but they often do not receive the recognition they deserve.’ Recognition apart the police are always at the receiving end and Hyderabad is one such instance.
Now that the opinion is divided about the killing of the accused, the words of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India assume significance. At a function at Jodhpur he said ‘But I do not think Justice can ever be or ought to be instant. I believe Justice loses its character of justice if it becomes revenge’. The Hon’ble CJI had apparently Hyderabad killing in his mind when he expressed this view. So justice has to be delivered through a laid down procedure and after following the due course of law. And it is here that the Judiciary and the Law enforcing agency and the investigating officials have a duty. This is a matter that falls within the ambit of these wings of the democracy. We as common citizens of this land of Buddha have our own societal responsibilities. And in that, in the words of a senior police officer we have to have preventive measures and not act only after the incident has occurred. And yes, the preventive measures have to start from home. In our families we traditionally teach etiquettes and good conduct and nice manners to our daughters since very young age and allow boys to be boys and give them liberty to a comparative extent. This has to change. Then from schooling point of view sex education has to be given with emphasis on emotional relations, human behaviour and the negative effects of depravity. It could be based on morality or let us say the good and bad behaviour and one’s responsibilities towards the society that he lives in. In today’s world of technological advancement where almost everyone uses a mobile and an internet this should not be a taboo. Cultural meanings have to be attached to sex education as “sex is to nature as gender is to culture”. We need to train the young minds .We should also find out how films impact the minds of younger generation at impressionable age and then take corrective measures to not pollute young minds under the grab of freedom of expression. The impact of films can easily be gauged by the figures that cine associations put out. It is astonishing to note that despite economists shouting from roof tops that economy is in a slow down mode, every second film released collects anything between two hundred to six hundred cores and even more.
With regard to moral education one feels sorry to note that some religious Gurus and spiritual teachers are more interested in Politics than in ethics in the society.
Crime against the vulnerable has been a part of life in every society but the heinous proportions of today’s world are much more horrific. And Hon’ble Prime Minister’s stress on police reforms to ensure women safety has come in the nick of time. What ordeal a rape victim and his family go through is difficult to envisage for many. This can be understood better by those who consider the victim as their own daughter or sister. Again at the societal respectability level, laws must be made and strictly implemented against any social censure, condemnation, discrimination or unfairness against the victim or the family.
Any one teasing or making a fun of any victim must equally be punished. For the collective good of the society the institution of marriage needs to be strengthened as dreadful details of the increasing number of filing of divorce papers are pouring in at courts and thereby increasing the work load on judiciary. I do not know if the society will accept a maximum age prescription for marriage as there is also a minimum age prescribed under the law, but I believe society will agree that our daughters have the right to live a dignified life and dignified they must live. Regrettably due to lengthy process of law the most horrendous and much publicised case of Nirbhaya that took place on 16 December in 2012 has still not reached its logical end. Our hearts go out to the families of all Nirbhayas. I am sure their mind will certainly want revenge and for them justice would be justice only if it is instant. But that would be barbaric. If the society accepts this, innocent and poor will constantly live under fear of being implicated and eliminated. The offence against accused is required to be proved. We are a civilised society. Our system may have loopholes but we do have a system of justice. Justice must prevail. One would want special courts to try such cases and a time limit for the delivery of justice but justice must mean ‘alterum non laedere’ (Not to harm or injure others).
Brij Nath Betab