Leading Women Lawyers Slam Hyderabad Encounter, Ask for Police Accountability

“So all that the state will do in the name of ensuring that women live as equal and free citizens is to add to its arsenal of unlimited arbitrary violence!” 

New Delhi: Leading lawyers who have fought numerous cases to uphold women’s rights have criticised the Hyderabad encounter killing and demanded an independent judicial probe into it. They have also cautioned against eulogising such extra-judicial killings, saying they help the state and police rid themselves of accountability while dealing with crime.

`These killings distract public’

In a Facebook post, senior advocate Vrinda Grover urged people to “Say no to trigger track injustice!” She said the encounter killing was “absolutely unacceptable”.

Grover sounded a word of caution, saying: “So all that the state will do in the name of ensuring that women live as equal and free citizens is to add to its arsenal of unlimited arbitrary violence!”

The Supreme Court advocate said that the apex court has “directed that in every encounter case – there must be an FIR registered against the police and an investigation”. So, she also demanded “an independent judicial enquiry into this `encounter’.”

With the words “No Investigation, No Prosecution”, Grover also stated that “these killings distract the public and save the police and state from any accountability.”

Would the police have killed them if the accused were from a posh colony?

Another senior advocate, Rebecca Mammen John, tweeted that there should be “No police ‘encounter’ in the name of women.”

She questioned the arguments being put forward in favour of the Hyderabad encounter and the celebrations that have followed. “How easily we celebrate mob justice. A police force that no one ever trusts, kills four unarmed men in the dead of the night. Why? Because they didn’t matter. Unlikely that (would) the Delhi police would have done this to men with connections who lived in Jor Bagh or Maharani Bagh. Did we even have enough evidence to suggest they committed the crime? Had any court seen that evidence? Had any court pronounced guilt?”

Also read: Telangana Encounter Live: Expressing Caution, BJP Says India ‘Not a Banana Republic’

She went ahead to say, “And even assuming they had committed the crime, there is a process to be followed. If that is abdicated, you could be next.”

`Not in our name’

John advised against celebrating such trigger-happy “justice” and the selective approach of politicians to such crimes. “All you legislators, political parties and sundry activists who set the tone for trigger justice … you have now got it. Mission accomplished … You never cared. Because if you did, there would not have been such a brazen attack on a woman complainant yesterday in Unnao.”

She said “support to rape survivors is a long and arduous process” and insisted that those pretending to be concerned had “never met them, never talked to any one of them”.

“You have no idea what they face or what they want. Hang your heads in shame. And fear. This will haunt you. But remember this is not what women want,” she wrote, signing off with “#Not in our name.”

An comment against the encounter came from Karuna Nundy. She too wrote about the necessity of following due legal process and tweeted that with the encounter, “nobody will ever know if the four men killed by the police were innocent men…”

In further tweets, she wrote, “There are so many people exulting over #EncounterNight, amongst them people who have lost faith in the slow court system and bad prosecution” and held that “Governments are squarely responsible” for this.

A wake up call to act

Nundy insisted that this case “needs to be a wake up call” and suggested a number of steps that need to be taken.

She said there was a need to “1. Appoint more judges and police, after assessing them for gender orientation. 2. Strengthen investigation so the right people are caught, and fast and 3. Bring in robust witness protection programmes.”

She also warned that there was a need to be aware of the “macho men dancing in the Twitter streets right now” who will “also defend the right of husbands to rape in marriage – the legality of marital rape – and campaign against s498A.”

`Death penalty is no answer’

Nundy tweeted how women advocates who worked to prosecute rapists on a daily basis were against the death penalty as they understood the issues involved. “It is no coincidence that it is women’s rights lawyers – we work hard in our daily lives to prosecute rapists and strengthen laws – who are against the death penalty,” she wrote.

The lawyer said the Justice Verma Committee, too, recommended that death penalty not be introduced for rape as at the very least it has no impact. “Brutality invites more brutality. Incentives shift. Granting the death penalty in one individual, heart breaking case might harm another woman.”

She also asked, “And what on earth were the police “investigating” at 3.30 am all this time later? When they were sleeping during the golden hour of evidence, refusing to register an FIR, when the young vet was alive?”