The gunning down of the four suspected rapists, who allegedly gang-raped and later burnt the body of the 27 year old veterinary doctor from Hyderabad, was received with mixed feelings across the country. According to the Hyderabad Police the men were in police detention and were taken to the scene of the crime in the early hours of Friday to reconstruct the crime scene. The suspects were shot when they allegedly tried to steal the officers’ guns and escape. While social media was abuzz with celebrations by several individuals and groups seeking instant justice, human rights activists and organizations have questioned whether such extra-judicial killing was avoidable. Going by the law the four men were ‘suspects’ and their case ought to have gone through due legal process. But past incidents have shown that getting rapists convicted is a tortuous affair mainly because of lack of critical evidence from the part of the law enforcers. As far as the public is concerned though, there is a growing feeling that rapists need to be given exemplary punishment and that the law takes too long to deliver justice to victims and their families.
Questions have been asked as to why the four suspects were not handcuffed. After all they were suspected to have committed a heinous crime. Incidentally, VC Sajjanar, the Police Commissioner of the Hyderabad suburb of Cyberabad who authorized the operation is known to be an encounter specialist. His explanation of the incident is that the four men got together and started to attack the officers with stones and sticks and also snatched away weapons from two officers and started firing. There are no witnesses and no evidence if that actually happened. Two policemen were ostensibly injured in the scuffle and are hospitalized and the Police Commissioner concluded that the law had taken its own course. Sajjanar was Superintendent of Police when three people accused of carrying out an acid attack on a woman were killed at the scene of the crime by police. They were also taken there to “recreate” the crime and were reportedly shot while trying to escape. At the time Sajjanar was hailed as a hero. Telangana has a history of extra-judicial killings where Maoist militants were done away in a similar manner during the height of insurgency in the 1980s and 1990s.
Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bacchan had earlier called for lynching of the rape suspects and was criticized for her statement. But increasingly citizens are seemingly unhappy with the manner in which rape cases are being handled by the judiciary and the long delays in delivering justice. Time has come for India to review the function of the judiciary and to see where it is failing its citizens.