About two weeks have gone since the horrific rape and murder of a veterinarian near Hyderabad, but the lust for revenge in a large section of the population has not died down despite the instant ‘justice’ meted out to the alleged perpetrators of the crime apparently executed by the subordinates of an officer with similar encounters in his record, under pressure of the Telangana government. When they hear that the hanging of the tormentors of the Delhi gang-rape of December 2012 is pending for want of an executioner in Tihar Jail, each one of them is ready to play the role of one–or so suggests their response on social media. Public memory is so pathetically short that they forget that not so long ago, they were falling over one another to ‘prove’ that one of the accused in the Kathua horror story was innocent. What if that young man had been shot dead by now? As things are panning out in the Unnao case, with a fresh allegation surfacing that an affair gone wrong was painted as a rape, the same set of ‘right-wing’ people must be asked if the accused should have been eliminated by now, with or without considering their diabolical act of burning the victim alive when she left home to attend the hearing of the case. For that matter, the way activists hijacked the issue of ill-treatment of women at workplaces in 2018, a regime of instant justice would have the offices of the country sit on a heap of dead bodies of more innocent men than the guilty by now, given that the outrage brigade is worked up less by the news of a woman’s murder and more by the report of her ‘dishonour’.
If ‘this is the frustration of a wronged people’ is how the nation tries to assure itself to rationalise the fanaticism for retributive justice, even then the shots are going all awry. Commissioner VC Sajjanar’s men had no business bumping off the accused in a case that was proceeding faster than usual, with the State government having secured a separate court building, a special judge and a dedicated public prosecutor to try the four incriminated. If the claim that they had snatched the policemen’s weapons and fired at the cops was not the officer’s cliched response to explain every ‘encounter’ he has planned since 2008, the entire personnel of the Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Police must be trained anew how to secure their firearms. That is presuming that not only the former Maoist he killed that way but also the acid throwers 11 years ago in Warangal and the truck drivers and helpers in 2019 he eliminated knew how to use guns!
The state cannot but wash its hands of this social craving for settling scores in the name of justice. Still living the legacy of the British Raj that had stripped Indians of the right to possess weapons, government has rendered women sitting ducks. As for men, constant targeting of their masculinity by a feminist media has left them too impotent to play the role of sentinels of society, ashamed as they are of the physical attribute of strength nature had bestowed upon them. Given that the statistics of rape is worse in better-policed countries of the West, there is but no solution other than adopting a free arms regime, enabled by legislation like the United States’ Second Amendment. The sense of security the possession of a firearm gives to a law-abiding citizen far outweighs the risk of its potential misuse, which can be deterred by safeguarding rules like a heavy penalty for unauthorised handling of the weapon by another member (especially children) of the family. Even the probability that the dangerous elements lurking in the dark would snatch the weapon and use it against the owner is much lower than that of the apprehension criminals will have before launching an attack on any random pedestrian or passenger. As for gangsters and terrorists, they are not waiting for licences to use their pistols and guns, anyway. This was about prevention.
As for the cure, which would otherwise be a misnomer in the victim’s scheme of things, the courts that are called fast-track are not fast enough. Even if President Ram Nath Kovind were to reject the clemency plea of one of the convicts today, the duration of seven years that the Nirbhaya case took from the Saket court to the Supreme Court is inexcusable. The rules for the judiciary have to be made stricter, with limited timeframe given to the advocates on both sides for documentation, witness and evidence production and argumentation (hearing), coupled with an end to adjournments given owing to the absence of either side in the court on a day of the hearing. CJI SA Bobde’s alarm is well received, but it will be more meaningful when his pillar of democracy gets its act together. Then alone will our people realise when justice retains its character and when even the law loses it.