Counter and encounter: Defenders and critics react to killing of Hyderabad accused

Updated: Dec 07, 2019, 07:56 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Justice or convenient killing? Scepticism and celebrations prove opinions span the spectrum when it comes to the Hyderabad accuseds' killings

Police personnel next to the body of a man at the site where they shot dead four gang-rape and murder suspects in Hyderabad. Pic/AFP
Police personnel next to the body of a man at the site where they shot dead four gang-rape and murder suspects in Hyderabad. Pic/AFP

It is a divided house, as defenders and critics react strongly to the killing of all the four accused involved in the rape and murder of a 25-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad, in the wee hours of Friday. Yesterday, India woke up to their phones pinging with WhatsApp messages about the news of the police encounter, in which the men were shot dead by the police in a cross-fire.

Anita Shetty, an activist who recently organised a protest with several others in Kurla over the rape and murder of the veterinarian, said, "I got the news on a WhatsApp group, and I said to myself: Well, thank God this has happened. At least 99 per cent of the people on the chat group had similar sentiments, and I think justice has been served. Whether this was a fake encounter or a genuine one, it is, I think immaterial now. I think Chief Minister Chandrasekhar Rao should be applauded, he must have been in the know about Friday's event."

However, Police Reforms Watch convenor Dolphy D'Souza has a different view. D'Souza said, "What happened to the woman was horrifying and condemnable. But the kangaroo justice by the police by encountering the accused is not justice. This sets a dangerous precedent of police breaking the law. We have a legal system in place. Another painful factor will be that no one will really know if the four persons killed by the police were innocent or arrested to show speedy action? Hence, we demand a judicial enquiry into the custodial death of the accused, and transfer of the investigation into the rape-murder to the Central Bureau of Investigation."

Advocates divided
Susie Shah, former chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women (MSCW) said, "We have been told that the police took the accused to the crime scene and that is where they were killed. Only the police will know the truth about what happened. Yet, the principle of jurisprudence says that one is innocent till proven guilty. Take the 26/11 example, Ajmal Kasab was punished after following proper judicial process, even though it was an open-and-shut case. Now we need a proper inquiry since the accused were not tried, there was no investigation and not even an FIR was filed."

Having said that, Shah, however, added, "You only have to look at Nirbhaya's killers to realise that the criminal justice system has failed Indian women." For social activist Abha Singh, though, "this encounter is justified. Look at the spiralling rates of sexual violence, the culprits have no fear of the law. In the current climate, rapists have become emboldened".

"As a lawyer, I know how tough it is to get a conviction in such cases. There are only 29 per cent convictions. Witnesses and victims, besides the victim's families are terrorised by the accused. All efforts are made so that evidence is not collected by the police. The accused, who are at times powerful and connected, do all they can and succeed too, to escape," said Singh, a Bombay High Court advocate.

Student speak
Anikhet Ovhal, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) national secretary, said the Hyderabad encounter "must force us to question why other rape cases are not being expedited and why there is no quick justice. As members of a student body, we want to see quick action in such cases, only then will people have confidence in the law and believe justice has been served. While there is plenty of debate about this particular killing [encounter], we will be better served to discuss what lessons it can teach us and how we, as individuals and organisations, build pressure on the system, press for changes, so that there is a faster resolution of all sexual assault cases."

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