View: Vikas Dubey as democracy deficit


    In the chain of events that culminated in the killing of Dubey, what was missing was ‘the due process of law’ to establish his culpability and to award him the punishment he richly deserved. And the due process of law matters — in a fundamental, defining sense for a democracy.

    Due process of law matters — in a fundamental, defining sense for a democracy.

    Vikas Dubey was a goon, killer, in 2001, of a minister inside a police station when BJP ruled the state, criminal overlord of a small chunk of Kanpur district, politician-cum-muscleman, killer of eight policemen recently, fugitive and victim of an Uttar Pradesh police ‘encounter’. More pertinently, in the light of public approbation of his killing by the police ‘while trying to escape’, Vikas Dubey is emphatic testimony that India is in desperate need of a movement for democracy, our present political system being far removed from that system of popular self-governance.

    Why would the desirable elimination of a known deprecator (KD, in police lingo) call for such denouncement of our political system, far beyond well-taken appeals for depoliticising the police, reform of the police on the lines of police commission recommendations?

    In the chain of events that culminated in the killing of Dubey, what was missing was ‘the due process of law’ to establish his culpability and to award him the punishment he richly deserved. And the due process of law matters — in a fundamental, defining sense for a democracy.

    A basic assumption of democracy is that every individual is intrinsically equal, in terms of inherent humanity and citizenship. This is why a scientist, a charlatan, a priest, a thief, a cricket star and a politician are all equal before the law, however different in degree or kind their usefulness to society or how varied their individual merit. When individuals are equal, no one particular individual’s say-so matters more than the opinion of another individual. What matters is what the law says, the law being framed by the collective will, exercised through the elected legislature. The rule of law, in other words, is a corollary of the equality of individuals so fundamental to democracy.

    There is no rule of law without due process. In an orderly society, individuals surrender the right to use force to the state. Might is not right. The law determines what is right. And what is wrong. A person who breaks the law has to be penalised. It is the state’s job to deliver this punishment. To determine who is in the wrong, meaning who has flouted the law, the due process of law must be followed. Without the due process, there is no rule of law. Without the rule of law, there is no intrinsic equality of all before the law. And without intrinsic equality of all, there is no democracy.

    That is why encounter killings, devoid of the due process of law in establishing the victim’s culpability, is essentially anti-democratic. Tolerance of anti-democratic, unaccountable police behaviour will encourage further such behaviour, creating a vicious cycle in which ordinary people suffer. The father-son duo of Jeyaraj and Bennix were tortured to death by the police in Tutucorin, Tamil Nadu, because of public tolerance of police highhandedness, in routine disregard of the due process of law.

    India’s Constitution explicitly guarantees the due process of law. Article 21, part of the chapter on fundamental rights, is all about it: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Notwithstanding this guarantee, India's prison is filled with people whose culpability for any crime is yet to be established. Rights activists accused of plotting to kill the Prime Minister in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence of 2018 languish in jail, with the state not being able to submit any proof to substantiate its charge for two years.

    Due process goes back in history to the Magna Carta, the document, whose creation in 13th century England began the process of whittling down of monarchical powers in favour of the ruled that culminated in universal adult suffrage and formal, institutionalised democracy. A 14th century version of the Magna Carta contained the provision. “No man of what state or condition he be, shall be put out of his lands or tenements nor taken, nor disinherited, nor put to death, without he be brought to answer by due process of law," said the document.

    Indians, for the most part, have not taken part in any struggle for democracy and confuse the patronage system operated by politicians, whom they have the privilege to elect once every five years, for popular self-governance.

    Traditional India spells hierarchy, not equality. The route to democracy lies through eroding and ending this hierarchy, in which some sections enjoy vastly superior social, economic and cultural power in relation other sections of society. That is not a simple journey to undertake which Google Maps is all the guide you need. One freedom movement evidently has not sufficed. We need another one.

    The reason why the sage recommendations of assorted Police Commissions have found no takers is that these recommendations work in a democracy, which India is yet to become.
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    17 Comments on this Story

    Jitendrababu Ambati56 days ago
    People have more faith in police encounters. They know judiciary is like tortoise and blind . The pain of losing near and dear is not felt by this A/C room writer. TN police action is different and UP police action is different.Public did not support TN police but supported UP police. People are part of democracy. Not filthy media
    Vandana Rathore63 days ago
    Yur comment resonates wth urgent needs,rights, privileges & aspirations fr the most valuable asset ie; 1.3 Billion Ppl. Aims 2 generate awareness among the masses & classes. Sure-Fire igniting passion, demanding action of, by & for the ppl 2 bring back ‘Democracy in India’ headline. Synopsis is exactly right.
    It clearly indicates the perfect time 2 go fr an all India people’s movement, the 2nd biggest movement aftr the freedom movement 2 restore Democracy!It is most prudent & sagacious advice, larger than life democratic message fr the incredibly brave & wise community, the marginalised communities, & less privileged sections of the society tht can build India as an emerging power of the world.It shall revive the dying spirits of the subaltern, gently persuades & exhorts our societies 2 understand & support the proposition of living a truly democratic life guaranteed by rule of law enunciated by u-The Constitution of India.Practically implementable ideas,examples & detailed explanation abt the legality & applicability of ‘The Police Acts’ governing the functioning of the Police in India.Explanation abt Indian’s struggle fr democracy is so much relevant & shld be considered a top priority fr definite outcomes.Time 2 honour the values expressed in the ‘Preamble’ as objectives as objectives of the Indian Constitution.Protect the core values of character,justice,liberty,equality,fraternity,human dignity & the unity & integrity of the nation. Tks, and best regards.
    Suresh Panje64 days ago
    You have called the spade, a spade. However, apropos the contention that the LAW determines what is right and wrong, it is high time that the lawmakers address numerous anomalies in this very LAW. What I mean is that plain logic can be a LAW whereas the law cannot be deemed to be logical. The hundreds of volumes of pages on laws are ridden with flaws. For instance, the clause of ‘evidence’ is one such flaw under which even a crystal clear truth is debunked as false. Where law begins justice ends is a wise old adage and aptly we have the Ministry of LAW & JUSTICE. Law at first and Justice in the end.
    Further there are technicalities vis-à-vis the law, for a confirmed guilty to go scot-free. There is an anecdote about an influential prince of the Raj days. He was booked for ‘driving’ his buggy alongthe ‘no traffic zone’ of Mall Road. Since it concerned royal prestige, the best lawyer in the land was engaged to defend him. On the day of the trial, despite all the eye-witnesses, this lawyer disproved the charge-sheet. “Your Honour, my client being accused of leading his horse-drawn buggy….etc. are false,” argued the lawyer and ensured the judge declare the accused ‘not guilty’ Yes, it was on technical grounds since the buggy was not hauled by horses as per the charge-sheet but by a pair of mares!!
    The less said the better on Police Reforms. Findings of the Dharma Vira Commission lying amid plethora of files in the corridors of the Home Ministry must have gathered inches of dust.
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