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Crime as punishment

Background for the news

  • Vikas dubey, who was wanted for the massacre of eight Uttar Pradesh policemen last Friday, was being taken in a police convoy to Kanpur after his arrest yesterday in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The UP police say the car in which Vikas Dubey was travelling overturned and he and other policemen were injured.
  • The criminal snatched a gun from an injured cop and tried to escape. He was surrounded and asked to surrender but he opened fire, forcing retaliatory shooting, in which he was killed.

What is the issue now?

  • His death is officially said to be a sanctioned retribution for the murder of eight policemen few days back.
  • There is no question that crimes such as those Dubey was involved in must be met with exemplary punishment.

Trial vs Retributive justice

  • A fair and transparent trial cannot be dispensed with in order to satisfy cries for vengeance.
  • Social sanction of instant justice by state agents might have leached into institutions that are mandated to enforce the rule of law. Last year, when the Cyberabad police shot dead four people accused in a case of gang rape and murder, people celebrated in the streets.
  • The courts and the National Human Rights Commission have also shown a lenient approach in such cases.
  • tolerating such behaviour, creates an atmosphere of impunity that could lead to murder of innocent people as happened with the custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu.
  • Support for such killings by the police will not make a society more just. Mob justice is no justice at all.

What do we mean by Retributive Justice?

Retributive justice is a system of criminal justice based on the punishment of offenders rather than on rehabilitation. It is a theory of punishment that when an offender breaks the law, justice requires that he or she must suffer in return. It also requires that the response to a crime must be proportional to the committed offence.

Constitutional Conflict

  • Article 21 guarantees the right of life and liberty. Hence, it is the responsibility of the police, being the officers of government, to follow the Constitutional principles and uphold the Right to Life of every individual whether an innocent one or a criminal

Reforms

  • Current laws governing crime, investigation and trial require meaningful reform.
  • Committee for the Reform of criminal law by union home ministry with an apparently short time frame and limited scope for public consultation has caused considerable disquiet among jurists, lawyers and those interested in criminal justice in the country.
  • In 2003, the Justice V.S. Malimath Committee on reforms in the criminal justice system had come up with some far­ reaching suggestions, some of which became part of changes in criminal law.
  • The Justice Verma panel came up with a comprehensive and progressive report on reforms needed in laws concerning crimes against women in 2013

Way forward

  • Justice in any civilised society is not just about retribution, but also about deterrence, and in less serious crimes, rehabilitation of the offenders.
  • The political sanction of “encounter killings” to deliver swift retribution would only be a disincentive for the police to follow due process and may even deter them from pursuing the course of justice. Far from ensuring justice to the victims, bending the law in such cases would only undermine people’s faith in the criminal justice system
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September 2022
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