A group of former civil servants known as the Constitutional Conduct Group on Friday expressed its dismay at the recent murder and alleged rape of a veterinarian in Hyderabad, and the controversial killing of the four men accused of the crime.
The group urged MPs to stop calling for lynching and summary executions that, they claimed, was feeding a frenzy of violence in the country.
“While the crimes of rape and murder were truly horrific, and we condemn them in the strongest terms, we were equally aghast by the widespread clamour among the public, and calls from the media and responsible persons to castrate, publicly execute, hang or lynch the persons responsible for the offence,” the former bureaucrats said in a statement. “Even some Members of Parliament demanded instant and kangaroo justice.”
The group said the police might have shot dead the four in a staged shooting after being “criticised for poor policing and pressured to show quick results”. In the lead up to the shooting, a number of politicians such as Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam legislator P Wilson called for the lynching and castration of the accused.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered a judicial inquiry into the killings. The inquiry commission will be headed by former Supreme Court judge VS Sirpurkar, and will comprise former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Baldota and former Central Bureau of Investigation Director DR Karthikeyan.
“The actions of the police, prima facie, do not inspire confidence,” said the Constitutional Conduct Group. “How was it possible for a team of 10 armed police officers to be overpowered by four men who had been in the police lockup for several hours and without weapons? Why could not the accused have been handcuffed? Why could they not have been shot at to wound but not to kill when they tried to escape?”
The former bureaucrats said several retired police officers had gone on record stating that the Telangana Police’s version of events was not believable. “And at least one minister of the Telangana government is reported to have said that the orders for the extra- judicial killing came from the very top!” This was a reference to a remark made by Talasani Srinivas Yadav last week.
The former civil servants said due process “was essential not only to ascertain that the persons arrested are actually guilty and if so, to what degree, but also to know whether or not the persons arrested are the real criminals and not some persons rounded up by the police to
satisfy the outburst of public anger”. They pointed out that the fundamental premise of Indian jurisprudence is that a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.
“A kind of blood lust seems to have swamped India in recent years. Lynching of persons accused of cattle smuggling, of thieving, of child lifting, of witchcraft, in fact of any kind of crime at all, is becoming increasingly common and the Indian public does not turn a hair when such incidents are reported,” they added. “More and more people in India seem to be in favour of this crude and instant justice. Unfortunately, this is getting encouragement from the statements made and actions taken by some of the MPs both within and outside Parliament.”
Quoting Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, the group said “justice loses its character if it becomes revenge”. The former bureaucrats urged parliamentarians to prevail upon their parties “not to give tickets to people who are accused of rape and murder”. “Without such actions, your speeches will be seen as hypocritical,” they added. “We hope to see you work to bring about the meaningful changes necessary to curb such crimes in the future.”