Encouraging ‘summary justice’ and police encounters could lead to a situation wherein any innocent person becomes a victim of arbitrary State action. The retired Supreme Court judge Justice Jasti Chelameswar cautioned, underscoring the importance of protecting the Law’s Rule.
Suppose police action of encountering accused is promoted. In that case, anyone among us could be the victim tomorrow, he said with specific reference to the Hyderabad encounter killings of 2019. Four persons accused of raping and killing a woman were shot dead by the Telangana police.
“It is all fine when we read in newspapers about summary trial and summary justice. But the point is, it may not stop with those four persons. If this kind of system is promoted, any one of us, any innocent person, can become a victim. If the local policeman is not happy with you, he can simply say that you are guilty of some offense, and then anything can happen thereafter,” he said.
Justice Chelameswar was delivering a lecture at ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad, on the topic ‘Rule of Law.’
He said that such instances of summary justice are on the rise because of inefficient enforcement of law due to which people are losing faith in the system.
In this regard, the former judge highlighted the reaction of the Civil society to the Hyderabad encounters to make his point. He pointed out that while such encounters have happened before, civil society in this particular case applauded the police’s action.
“In other words, civil society has come to accept State action without following the due process of law. They (civil society) may have many reasons. They may tell us that the judicial process is too slow. It might take 20 years to convict them, and then there is an appeal and further appeal to the Supreme Court. There are all kinds of arguments. But why are such arguments being made? It is the inefficiency of our law enforcement machinery which include the investigating agencies, prosecuting agencies, and the judicial wing do not promote the requisite confidence in the civil society,” he said.
In this regard, Justice Chelameswar urged for strong attention to be paid to the implementing laws.
“Often, laws are there on the statute book, but we find many inadequacies when it comes to implementation. When implementation becomes less efficient, the occurrences of offenses become more frequent. (Inefficient) implementation of the law is a problem which we face in this country almost daily. However well drafted and beautiful the law is unless it is enforced properly, the society cannot be said to be governed by the rule of law,” he said.
Therefore, he urged the law students who will become part of the system tomorrow to ensure efficient enforcement of the law so that rule of law is protected.
“In the long run unless we take care of the system, it might get paralysed. People might lose faith in the system. I don’t want to sound very ominous but these are the possible consequence of an inefficient system,” he added.