“Do you want Nirbhaya Act or Disha Act?” asked a question on a Whatsapp group. In a nutshell, that explained the sentiment on the street, finding voice over social media. The Cyberabad police who till the other day, were pilloried for being irresponsible, insensitive and callous for its initial reaction to the case of the missing veterinary doctor in Hyderabad, are now being celebrated as heroes. Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar, who is indeed a fine officer, is being complimented for delivering justice. (pic below)
This is what a broken justice delivery system looks like. Where people celebrate a kangaroo court module that the social media has become and are comfortable with the police force meting out trigger-happy justice. This despite the government instituting a fast-track court to deliver a verdict in a short time. No one is denying that the crime committed on Disha was heinous and barbaric. The culprits deserved capital punishment but handed out after due process of law.
On the face of it, the police version of the accused trying to escape and therefore being killed will be accepted, unless a magisterial probe proves otherwise. We will believe that the accused ran 500 metres in the darkness, letting themselves loose from police clutches.
In the Cyberabad case, barring the confessional statements of the four accused in police custody and supporting statements by eyewitnesses, the police were yet to piece together a FIR armed with quality forensic evidence. In a court of law, the evidence so far would not have meant a watertight case.
But after the shootout in the cover of darkness, the Disha template will be used by police force in other cities and states to deliver instant justice. Former Uttar Pradesh CM Mayawati has taunted the Uttar Pradesh police and asked it to learn from its counterparts in Telangana.
The question is do we want to empower the police to be also the judiciary and the hangman. Is the social media going to be the new jury? How is the common citizen of India deciding that this is an open-and-shut case when he / she does not have any access to the evidence at hand? This is not a soap opera, for heavens sake.
Is the tag of rape accused good enough to bump anyone off? Have we reduced the courts to mere spectators, watching as the men in khaki take over from the men in black coats and gowns. In a country deeply polarised on caste and religious lines, this is an extremely dangerous precedent.
But this also means that people have very little faith in the process of legal justice. That should worry the top jurists in the country. Nirbhaya’s rapists for instance are still in jail, their mercy petitions pending despite them being handed over the death penalty. It is this delay that makes people comfortable with the idea of outsourcing the job to the cops.