Crime as punishment: On the killing of Vikas Dubey

The Uttar Pradesh Police’s account of the killing of Kanpur gangster Vikas Dubey on Friday, even if taken at face value, is a startling admission of serious ineptitude. But the official narrative, as it stands, stretches the bounds of credulity to an astonishing extent. The possibility that his death is officially sanctioned retribution for the murder of eight policemen who were part of the team that went to arrest him on July 3 is hard to dismiss out of hand. Without a doubt, Dubey’s death in an ‘exchange of fire’ while he was ‘trying to flee’ after the police vehicle in which he was being taken ‘met with an accident’ is also extremely convenient for many; it puts a lid on the sordid tale of his violent rise to power and influence, which was nourished by a wider network of patrons, including some in the police force. A hardened criminal, who had 62 cases against him before his gang allegedly shot dead eight policemen last week, was supposedly being transported without handcuffs; he snatched weapons from those escorting him, according to the police version of the incident. Indeed, this is no more than a self-indictment of the state police, whose conduct has raised far too many questions in the recent past. There is no good explanation for driving such a suspect through the night across more than 600 km from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh where he was arrested on Thursday. The brutal last episode of Dubey’s serial crimes should be no defence if the shooting turns out to be an extra-judicial killing.

Any demand of probity and accountability in police and military is often contested on the supposed ground that it emerges from a support for criminals, terrorists or enemies of the state by influential political and public figures. There is no question that crimes such as those Dubey was involved in must be met with exemplary punishment. The process of establishing guilt and executing punishment is not an incidental part of justice, but its integral soul. 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. Goading the police on to deliver instant justice, or even 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. When law enforcers short-circuit due process, the damage to state institutions is severe and long-lasting.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 8:01:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/crime-as-punishment-the-hindu-editorial-on-the-killing-of-vikas-dubey/article32046060.ece

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