“It is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one.” ~ Voltaire ~
In every Hollywood movie that involves someone getting arrested for some offense, one can see the cop handcuffing the offender, while saying, “You have the right to remain silent…” and so on. In every Bollywood and Kollywood movie I’ve seen, there is no time for the police men to talk. They catch hold of the criminal [I mean offender], push him into the police jeep [in Chennai it’s a car] and drive away to the police station. Later, in the station, they use their lathis to get any information the accused might be withholding. And then, when they had beaten the living daylights out of the poor guy, a lawyer appears and bails them out. Then they leave the station, with bruises and stuff. Now, one doesn’t have to be a genius to notice the difference between the former and latter scenarios.
I am surprised, in fact, that this thought hadn’t struck me earlier… And I think I know why. Here, in India, it’s become a common issue. People have learnt to accept its presence, avoid it as far as possible and even jokes are being made out of the fact that there are so serious human rights violations in here. I remember lots of films where Vadivel or Vivek or some other comedy actor had highlighted an incident like this in the film, to make people laugh. And laugh we did. We still do. But like Shah Rukh Khan said, it’s high time we stopped laughing. Things are not really so funny in the real life. Mysterious disappearances and custodial deaths are still widespread and what about the fake encounters? In movies, these fake encounters are glamorized! People [includes many I know] respect police officers who have been involved in fake encounters. Imagine my resentment when I was shown the photograph of a relative [who was a cop] who was one of the best police officers of his time… He was the first one to kill a thug in a false encounter!
It’s rather tiring to debate how much power a cop must be given, and being just a student, I probably have little to talk about that. But I’m old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong, and also what anyone’s duty is. Everyone will agree with me if I tell them that a cop’s duty is to maintain order. But few people will appreciate my view that it’s also his duty to protect the law. And killing away thugs and criminals because they have no faith in the system, in the judiciary, is what any sane person would call ‘against the law’. I don’t care if he is accused of doing a hundred murders. He’s still innocent until proven guilty and if someone can kill anyone in the name of an encounter, then what’s the guarantee that that someone won’t pick up on an old enemy or rival? The thought of an innocent person getting shot still send a chill down my spine...
This is what Sir Edward Coke had to say on the matter:
“One threatens the innocent who spares the guilty.”
Very true, but like Thomas Jefferson says,
“It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape.”