Citizens are frustrated with the inefficiencies of the legal
system, say commentators.
India is angry, especially south of the Vindhyas. Over the last
couple of weeks, South India has seen a spate of high-profile
crimes – eliciting vociferous demands for stern, quick action. The
perception that the legal system is ineffective has heightened the
clamour for what Hyderabad-based sociologist P Raghavendra calls
“two-minute noodle justice”.
Consider the reactions to the case this week of two final-year
medical students in Chennai throwing a dog off a terrace simply so
that they could shoot a video of it. As the video went viral,
Facebook and Twitter were flooded with calls for the culprit
Gautam Sudarshan to be treated the same way he treated the dog –
that he too should be tossed off the same building.
Though it didn’t take long to track down Sudarshan and Ashish
Paul, who shot the video, there was outrage that they got bail
almost immediately. They face a fine of only Rs 50 and perhaps
three months behind bars. The medical college where they are
students has temporarily suspended them and there is no guarantee
that they won’t eventually become doctors.
Some citizens groups want to take the case to the Chennai High
Court. Top city lawyers have offered to appear for them pro bono.
They may argue the case from a child-abuse point of view.
“Research worldwide has shown that those who abuse animals,
graduate to abusing children next,’’ claimed Antony Rubin, one of
the activists who tracked down the two accused. “We want the court
to see the case in a different perspective and cancel the bail.”
A similar desire for retribution was evident on Monday when a
crowd of women’s activists assembled at the DCP office in
Hyderabad, demanding that Anil, an alleged serial rapist who had
raped and killed a 10-year-old, be handed over to them.
“We have no faith in the system, give him to us, we will lynch him
to death,’’ chanted the angry women. Anil has 19 cases against him
and had been released from jail on July 1 after serving a one-year
sentence in a case of attempt to murder. The prison authorities
had done no psychiatric mapping to evaluate him. The very next
day, he allegedly raped and killed the child.
The murder of Infosys employee S Swathi at Chennai’s busy
Nungambakkam railway station on June 24 has also prompted demands
that her alleged killer, Ramkumar, be awarded the death penalty.
“Only then it will set an example and put the fear of law in
people’s mind,’’ said S Alex, who lives close to the railway
station where Swathi was killed. The outpouring of anger was
evident in court on Wednesday, when Ramkumar’s bail petition came
up for hearing.
These impulses, some believe, are the result of the sense that the
system is unresponsive and inefficient. “The frustration has grown
over not being heard by responsible authorities,” said Alokparna
Sengupta of Humane Society International.
Popular cinema has also romanticised the thirst for revenge,
outside the purview of the law. Clinical psychiatrist Dr Purnima
Nagaraja referred to the last scene in the Hindi film Khakee,
where Tusshar Kapoor, who plays the sub-inspector, kills the
criminal in a fake encounter. He rationalises the murder by
claiming that the legal system doesn’t offer justice. “When you
feel helpless, you fight back,” said Nagraja. “This is people’s
law. When it is being done, they do not think about the right or
wrong of it.”
R Mani, a political commentator from Chennai, believes that the
proliferation of social media has also contributed to this
phenomenon. “Advent of social media has given an outlet for people
to vent their anger,’’ he said. The shrill sentiments expressed
online set the tone for the discourse in the real world as well,
For its part, some people in Telangana claim to already be
enjoying the benefits of retributive justice. In 2008, three boys
who had thrown acid at two Warangal girls who had spurned their
romantic interest were shot dead by the police, who claimed they
were trying to escape. Though few people bought the scenario
offered by the police, there was admiration for the instant
justice they had meted out.
“Since then, there have been hardly any cases of acid attacks on
young girls,” claimed Mahila Congress leader Manjula Reddy.
“Justice of this kind will be a deterrent.’’
However, human rights activists point to the danger in getting a
popular vote on crime. “Law is not majoritarian in the decision-
making process,’’ said L Ravichander, a lawyer and human rights
activist. “Usually, when a state prosecutes the accused, the other
players should move to the background but here, after the
judgement say in a murder case, the mother of the victim is asked
by the media, are you happy with the capital punishment handed out
and she replies, no, I want death penalty. The failure to
disconnect the crime from the survivors of the crime is adding to
this yearning for revenge.’’
Added VS Krishna of the Human Rights Forum: “It demeans us as a
society, if we give in to revenge. We have to worry about our
morality, not his. Our form of punishment has to be civilised.’’? #KhabarLive