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Creating Order By Trampling On Law

Creating Order By Trampling On Law

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The killing of Vikas Dubey and the chain of events leading up to it bring back to the surface the governance or lack thereof in Uttar Pradesh and on police reform in general.

Many Indian states tolerate acts of impunity and selectively suspend the rule of law.

The editorial discusses how the use of strong-arm tactics by the state tramples the creation of law and order.

2. PREVALENT LAWLESSNESS

2.1 Thoki Raj

  • The present political regime in the state of Uttar Pradesh is colloquially known as “thoki raj", owing to the increasing number of encounters in the state.
  • Various reports have shown that as early as February 2018 the UP police were conducting four encounters a day, killing up to 40 people.

2.2 Increasing lawlessness

  • The increasing lawlessness in Uttar Pradesh was evident in the way anti-CAA protests were quelled by arbitrarily attaching people’s properties in ways that had no legal backing and prejudged guilt.

2.3 Use of the National Security Act

  • There is also an increasing tendency of the UP government to deploy the National Security Act against a variety of offenses as if using this Act were imposing a minor fine.
  • Creating order by trampling on law seems to be the new ideological raison d’etre of the state government of Uttar Pradesh.

3. EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS

  • The killing of Vikas Dubey has parallels elsewhere but is also unique in the context that he epitomizes both the banality and horror of UP politics.
  • He allegedly killed eight police officers with impunity and was accused of several heinous crimes.
  • However, he was an integral part of a social and political power structure and served the needs of his political masters.
  • Given that the present political culture considers the demand for the rule of law as cruelty and vengeance as humanizing, there is a big possibility of trivializing this encounter but we should not ignore three points:
    • Firstly, there is no place for extrajudicial killings in a liberal democracy.
    • Secondly, the excuses given for extrajudicial killings even if true are not justified. Judicial infirmity is often cited to justify extrajudicial killings but most of the time, behind judicial infirmity, lies political hand.
    • Thirdly, the assumption of supporting political strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order in the longer run must be questioned as diminishing violence cannot be achieved through extra-judicial means.

4. POLICE REFORMS

The entire episode of events in this recent incident calls for the long-pending police reforms as

  • Protecting the police from political interference
  • Investing in police training
  • Ramping up judicial infrastructure

However, no entity really intends to undertake police reforms for the following reasons:

4.1 Distrust towards the police

  • The police arguably is one of the most distrusted institutions of the Indian state.
  • Police reforms are deemed to create more trust towards the police in the eye of the public.
  • But there is also a fear that empowering or reforming the police amidst the prevalent environment of distrust in the police could also amount to giving more powers of repression to the police.
  • Disempowered groups already suffering at the hands of the police also fear an effective police force as they might lose even the little margins of negotiation they have.
  • The privileged sections of the society would rather have a negotiable system than an effective police force.

4.2 Police as a political tool

  • The police have a strange position in a democracy. It is often used as a tool of political power to channelize patronage.
  • The political establishment in power does not want to give up this strong tool of political power.
  • However, the stand of opposition to police reforms is also not clear.
  • The opposition not only aims to use the same political power one day when they sit in power, but the ad hoc rule of law structure, open to negotiation by community identity, money, violence, and connections, actually fragments power in a democracy.

4.3 Resistance to state

  • No one wants to give the state an actual monopoly over violence.
  • Criminals subvert the rule of law but some sections also see them as power nodes and often deploy them in resistance to the state.
  • Indian democracy survived not just because of a commitment to values, but because this de facto fragmentation of violent power was essential to it.
  • Police reform would mean subverting this entire moral economy of fragmented power.

4.4 Pitiful state of the police

  • It is also reported that in UP Police, more than twice as many policemen were killed on duty as the number of civilians killed by police in the year of study.
  • More shocking is the fact that most of the police deaths were not at the hands of criminals but a result of neglect and poor working conditions.
  • The police are visibly expected by society to publicly stage violence or be implicated in its structures by politicians and at the same time, they are also morally condemned for enacting the norm.
  • Political analysts suggest that the police are marginalized in a moral sense. They are asked to sacrifice and simultaneously condemned morally and legally.
  • The police is both central and marginal to the political order depending on the need of the political establishment.
  • Without a real constituency of police reform, the line between the criminal and the state will remain blurred.

5. FAKE ENCOUNTERS

5.1 Encounter culture

  • Encounters were widely practiced all over India:
    • by the Maharashtra Police to deal with the Mumbai underworld
    • by the Punjab Police against Sikhs demanding Khalistan
    • by the Uttar Pradesh Police during the present political regime
  • Last year, the police in Hyderabad killed four men in an encounter. The four men had allegedly raped and murdered a woman veterinarian.
  • Political commentators terms such encounters not as clashes but cold-blooded murder by the police.

5.2 Provisions of Article 21

  • Article 21 of the Constitution states, “No person will be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in accordance with the procedure established by law.”
  • Article 21 mandates the state to put a person on trial in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code before depriving him of his life.
  • The accused must be informed of charges against him and should be given an opportunity to defend himself (through counsel).
  • Only after undergoing this due process the accused is found guilty, must he be convicted and executed.

6. CONCLUSIONS

Fake encounters and extrajudicial killings circumvent the legal procedure mandated by Article 21 in its entirety. Hence, such encounters are completely unconstitutional.

The argument of judicial infirmity and the justification of such encounters by citing that no one will dare to testify against dreaded criminals who will again roam free, even if true will breed a dangerous culture giving impunity to the police to carry out on the spot justice.

Such culture and practices have no place in a democratic country like India.

Source: Indian Express