October 17, 2007

That's also murder

Think of it like this: what if the men the police killed in a car in Delhi on March 31 1997 were actually Mohammed Yaseen and an accomplice, men the police claimed were gangsters? Would there have been the outrage there is today because the dead men were Pradeep Goyal and Jagjit Singh, ordinary folks like you and me?

Think of it like that, and the real issue in this ghastly mess becomes clear. This was not a case of "mistaken identity", in the sense that it is hardly that the cops got the wrong men that was the crime here. This was simply murder, and it would have been just as much a crime had it really been Yaseen in that car.

That's why I'm so encouraged by the judgement delivered by Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar, may his tribe increase. He observed that "killing criminals in cold blood is also murder." He noted that the policemen "had planned in advance to kill [Yaseen] in cold blood." He said that they "would have been guilty even if they had killed Yaseen." (All quotes from Times of India Oct 17). Thank someone for judges like Vinod Kumar. Thank someone for his understanding of the simple idea of justice.

In other words, what I hope this judgement sheds light on is the whole sickening culture of police "encounters", and the widespread societal approval for them. Dreaded gangsters or not, the police cannot be allowed to shoot them down, and cannot be allowed to get away with shooting them down. But once we do allow them to do those things, we had better be prepared for murders like on that day in 1997: murders of perfectly ordinary folks like you and me.

Yes, it could have been you in that car that day. Because of Justice Kumar, there's just that much less chance that it might be you, bullet-ridden dead in another car, tomorrow. Think of it like that.


Postscript: Question -- is this case any different from that of Kausar Bi? Ishrat Jahan? Pinya Hari Kale? Jawed Fawda? Budhan Sabar? Khwaja Yunus? (Add more names as you see fit).

If so, how is it different?


acrain said...

I think it would be simplistic to assume that police or the armed forces gain any pleasure out of killing people, criminals or otherwise.

Like all other things in India or maybe in all democracies there are many counteracting forces probably working against the law enforcers. I would assume that law breakers are smart and conceited enough to use the system to their advantage.

Though I would strongly condemn short cut justice, many a times probably they are left with no alternatives. I am reminded of the Kandahar hijacking episode and what it would have done to the morale of the forces involved in the capture of the terrorists.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Anil, the pleasure or otherwise is irrelevant here.

A police officer I greatly respect once gave a talk in which he said the police are often forced into brutality by the public. For example, when there's a theft in a flat, the family members will often urge the cops to use third-degree on the watchmen to extract confessions. There's no pleasure, but there's certainly pressure. Until that changes we'll have killings like in Delhi.

Anonymous said...

I think you missed a point. Judge said that killing in cold blood is crime, not killing in encounter. Mind that this was not an "encounter" but "fake encounter".