When Gavel Breaks,  Gun Fires
Columns, In Black & White

When Gavel Breaks, Gun Fires

December 7, 2019

Yesterday at an ungodly hour, four ungodly men were shot dead by the Telangana Police. All hailed it as justice served. A justice of biblical proportions in modern times, as the line from the Old Testament reads, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” So yes, ancient style of justice was delivered in modern times and people cheered because they have lost faith in the Indian justice system.

Just take the case of most disturbing rape and murder of Nirbhaya. The incident occurred in December 2012. Eighteen days after the crime was committed, Police filed charge sheet against five men and one juvenile. The fast track court began hearing the case from January 2013. Then…

The fast track court delivered its verdict in nine months. Four accused were declared guilty and awarded death penalty. During this long trial, one accused committed suicide in jail. Then…

Six months later, in March 2014 the Delhi High Court upholds the trial court ruling. Then…

Two years later in April 2016 the case reaches the Supreme Court, which began hearing this case on a fast track mode! Then…

A year later in May 2017, the Supreme Court also upheld the death  sentences. Then…

Three of the four convicts file review petitions against the Supreme Court judgement. Then…

A year later, in July 2018, the Supreme Court rejects the review  petitions. Then…

One of the convicts files a mercy petition to the President of India. Then…

…Still waiting to be rejected. 

Now, it’s been seven years since Nirbhaya was raped, disembowelled and murdered, the rapists are still in jail, but not for raping and killing Nirbhaya!  They are serving a 10-year sentence for robbing a carpenter named Ram Adhar before they went on to rape and murder Nirbhaya. 

When this is the case history of Nirbhaya, why will people not celebrate the quick-gun justice delivered by the Telangana Police? We bet Nirbhaya’s family and many of us wish Delhi Police had the same “opportunity” that Telangana Police got. 

Some of our leaders had a solution. They suggested lynching, castration, removing appeal petitions and other typical knee-jerk emotional reactions. But the only solution is  fixing a terribly slow justice delivery system. But will our leaders fix it? 

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Former Minister, late Arun Jaitley, in 2002 observed, “You commit a crime  and there is 93.5 percent chance — if it is heinous — that you will get away with it.” And he said this when he was the Law Minister of the country! What did he do to fix it? Nothing. 

Our courts are slow because they are burdened by false cases, botched Police investigations and admittance of ridiculous Public Interest Litigations (PILs) like one asking for a ban on all red dresses across India. The very admittance of such a case raises serious questions of judicial competence. 

It has been reported that there are more than 3 crore cases pending in different courts of India. Many of these cases are pending for more than 10 years. There are about 1.5 lakh cases pending in Supreme Court, over 43 lakh cases in different High Courts and around 2.9 crore cases pending in District and Sub-ordinate Courts. Add to this, shortage of Judges, questionable competence of Judges in lower courts, shortage of courts and even worse, Government is the largest litigant! Yes,  Government is one of the largest litigants in our country and most of them are cases of one Department suing another Department !

Justice is so delayed in our system that today courts are misused. From land deals to false dowry and rape cases, a court case is used not only as much as a mechanism to get justice but also to delay justice so as to force an                         outside “settlement.” 

It is this delay in justice that has allowed local rowdies and mafia to run parallel courts. Also sometimes issues are “settled” in a Police Station. The reason is because it’s quick and to some extent, even judicious. 

In fact, Justice J.S. Verma Committee, which was appointed after the Nirbhaya gang rape case, concluded its report saying, “Speedy justice is not merely an aspect of the right to life with dignity, but is essential for efficacy of the law and its desired impact, as well as for prevention of its violation.” 

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So as justice is delayed, the impact  of law is being lost and so quick justice is what people want. That is why no one wants to question the authenticity of the encounter in Telangana. People have simply accepted the delivery model saying, “They were evil men. And they deserved what they got. Police did what courts would have taken years to do.” 

In fact, the encounter seems to have been therapeutic to an angered, disturbed and agitated public psyche that was seeking revenge. A bloody balm that has made the public calm. And let us not lie to ourselves. What happened in Hyderabad was ‘revenge served’ more than justice served. More importantly, no one  is feeling guilty for not seeking evidence or trial. That says a lot about the people’s dwindling faith in the justice system.

But this trend of quick justice doesn’t bode well for a civil society or democracy. Soon this approval of the public for quick justice can be misused to close cases quickly or cover up cases. An example would be of the Ayesha Meera rape and murder case in Andhra where a handicapped man was fixed and sentenced to 10 years jail to shield a Deputy CM’s son who was the prime suspect. The handicapped man is out, after appeal. Police have been asked to pay him compensation. The case has now been transferred to the CBI. It has been going on for 11 years! 

In a civil society, justice should not flow from the barrel of a gun but from the gavel of a court. And when gavel becomes weak, guns will be fired and people will cheer. Like they did yesterday.  After all… Justice delayed is Justice denied…and when denied too often…Justice dies…with that… so will civil society. It’s time for serious Judicial Reforms.

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3 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “When Gavel Breaks, Gun Fires”

  1. harsha says:

    But still Justice is served . Hope Nirbhya accused are also shot dead.
    We have no(lost) faith in Indian judicial system

  2. Govind Pai says:

    Yes, this ‘encounter’ is the culmination of an increasing breakdown in the justice delivery system including of the police and courts. Our so called parliamentarians who bear a major responsibility for failing to fix the problem, are now cheering its demise. The likes of Jaya Bachchan rant to the gallery about lynching the rape suspects. Does she forget that the party which gave her a ticket to the RS has numerous MP’s with rape cases against them? Has she tried to lynch them? Have she or the others even spoken about it or tried to cleanse these Augean stables? What hypocrisy!

  3. boregowda says:

    With most of the goondas getting elected as our leaders, what can we expect.

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