Crime as punishment – Encounter of Vikas Dubey
The Uttar Pradesh Police’s account of the encounter killing of Kanpur gangster Vikas Dubey, even if taken at face value, is a startling admission of serious ineptitude. But the official narrative, as it stands, stretches the bounds of credulity to an astonishing extent.
An act of retribution –
The possibility that his death is officially sanctioned retribution for the murder of eight policemen is hard to dismiss out of hand. Without a doubt, Dubey’s death in an ‘exchange of fire’ while he was ‘trying to flee’ after the police vehicle in which he was being taken ‘met with an accident’ is also extremely convenient for many; it puts a lid on the sordid tale of his violent rise to power and influence, which was nourished by a wider network of patrons, including some in the police force. The brutal last episode of Dubey’s serial crimes should be no defence if the shooting turns out to be an extra-judicial killing.
Questions raised –
- The retributive act of ‘instant justice’ is celebrated in the people because it serves as a reminder of judicial incompetency. There were 62 cases against this gangster, including 5 murders and 8 attempts to murder. There are 3.14 crore cases pending in the district courts, 47 lakh cases in various High Courts and around 60,000 cases in the apex court. Moreover, India’s conviction rate is abysmally low at 48.8% (according to 2017 numbers).
- Those who know about the criminal justice system in the state argue that there was a huge probability that he would have circumvented the judicial system through manipulation of the state structures. In this case, the supporters of the killing argue that an encounter of such hard criminals is an executive organ’s way of serving justice in society at a time when the common people have an eroded expectations of justice in the judicial apparatus of the state.
- Others argue for the morale of the 2.85 lakh police force in the state of Uttar Pradesh as the gangster was involved in murdering of 8 policemen. They argue that the sense of retribution simmering in the minds of the police force against the gangster was a big reason enough to start his countdown against life.
- Many others argue that such encounters leave a ‘deterrent effect’ on the existing and future criminals in the society to either give up their illegal and immoral pathways or be ready to succumb to such ‘instant justice’ routine.
Why is it not justified?
- Any demand of probity and accountability in police and military is often contested on the supposed ground that it emerges from a support for criminals, terrorists or enemies of the state by influential political and public figures.
- There is no question that crimes such as those Dubey was involved in must be met with exemplary punishment. The process of establishing guilt and executing punishment is not an incidental part of justice, but its integral soul. A fair and transparent trial cannot be dispensed with in order to satisfy cries for vengeance.
- Social sanction of instant justice by state agents might have leached into institutions that are mandated to enforce the rule of law.
- The courts and the National Human Rights Commission have also shown a lenient approach in such cases. Goading the police on to deliver instant justice, or even tolerating such behaviour, creates an atmosphere of impunity that could lead to murder of innocent people as happened with the custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu.
- Support for such killings by the police will not make a society more just. Mob justice is no justice at all. When law enforcers short-circuit due process, the damage to state institutions is severe and long-lasting.
Way forward –
- The veracity of the encounter may be established by a fair probe but irrespective of the results of the probe, questions that need to be addressed remain silent for now.
- The gangster may have died, but the nexus has survived. It is important to focus on the political-criminal nexus that prevails in many parts of the country. Without sweeping police reforms (a state subject), there is a strong possibility that such criminals will continue to thrive and be replaced with new ones. After all, the elimination of one Vikas Dubey serves as no insurance against the emergence of a new Vikas Dubey.
- Such encounters and their acceptance in society should also serve as a naked reminder for both the executive and judicial apparatus of the state to improve upon justice delivery and ensure that the criminal justice system of the state remains outside the influence of a few against the interests of all.
QUESTION – The state-sponsored killings diminish us all and reduce us to being murderers. Discuss this statement in context of the recent upsurge in the cases of “retributive justice”.