Exploration: Public narrative on ‘instance justice’

Themes | Subthemes | Tags: Vulnerability and Justice | Gender based violence
Duration: Jan – Feb 2020
Team:  Sunita Sheel
Funding support:  None
Past contributions:
Product/s: An editorial titled ‘Public narrative on “instant justice”: A slippery slope’ published in Indian J Med Ethics. Feb 2020.

Overview:  The brutal gang rape and murder of a young veterinarian (now known as the ‘Disha’ case) on Nov 27, 2019 in Hyderabad (2), was followed by the encounter deaths of the four suspects at the hands of the Hyderabad police, on Dec 6, 2019 (2). The rape-murder, the police killings, and the public jubilation after the killings are all not only extremely disturbing, but very intriguing. The Disha case is a sombre reminder of the 2012 Nirbhaya case. These and other violent sexual crimes shake our conscience as citizens. However, this particular case stands out due to the police encounter followed by the public celebrations. These events raised two sets of key questions in my mind: (a) What shapes public opinion on important aspects of human life, like women’s safety, and the emerging trend of shorts cuts to criminal justice delivery, or ‘instant justice’ in a democracy like India?; and (b) Do survivors of gender-based violence and their families perceive the ‘death penalty’ as the only appropriate redress and do they feel justified in supporting the extra-judicial path of ‘instant justice’ in the face of persistent delays in criminal justice delivery? The police action does not seem to be a one-off event when seen against the backdrop of contemporary India witnessing increasing tolerance for lynching, for mobs ‘taking the law into their own hands’ (3, 4). This raises concerns. The public narrative supporting the elimination of convicts via the death penalty as a legal measure, or of accused persons via extra-judicial measures as the ultimate justice to survivors warrants attention and deliberation. This exploration was to look into these matters. [from ‘Background’ section of the paper].

Past contributions:

  • Bandewar SVS, Pitre A, Lingam L. Five years post Nirbhaya: Critical insights into the status of response to sexual assault. Indian J Med Ethics. Published online on March 28, 2018. DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2018.025
  • Fatima A., & Chandrasekhar A., & Pitre A. Need for gender sensitive health system responses to violence against women and children. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. 2018; Vol III No 3. DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2018.011.
  • Pitre, A. and Lingam L. Rape and Medical Evidence Gathering Systems Need for Urgent Intervention. Economic and political weekly. 2013; 48(3).
  • Pitre A. Caring for survivors of sexual assault. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics Vol III No 3; July-September 2006.
  • Kulkarni S, Jesani A, D’Souza L. Sexual assault of a deaf mute juvenile in observation home, Umerkhadi on September 21, 1997. Mumbai: Forum Against Child Sexual Exploitation; 1998.