Who Killed the Accused? Macho Cop Films and Extra-Judicial Killings

“Every time they try to look at a woman in a bad manner, it is very important that they should have the fear that some erratic police officer will come and shoot them. No arrest, no long case: decision on the spot.”

This loosely-translated dialogue from Ajay Devgn’s blockbuster Singham series explains the ubiquitous celebration of the unfortunate series of events that took place on the early hours of December 6.

Our pop culture seems to romanticise just and motivated violence: be it the supernaturally able heroes from South Indian films or the comparatively still-respecting-the-laws-of-physics heroes of Bollywood action thrillers.

At the centrestage of a lot of these films is an average Indian male who is so extremely tired of the system that he finally decides to unleash his wrath upon his alleged oppressors. Perhaps these characters resonate with every frustrated Indian who is forced to jump through hoops when it comes to institutions of bureaucracy and law and order.

Also read: Bollywood Hypocrisy: Mixed Signals and Faux Feminism

Why else would such films be so popular and be so lucrative for those selling such ideas?

The present generation of those serving at various levels of various police departments across the country also grew up watching these films – watching them in college and during their years of service.

The Singham-like idealism and Dabangg-like male bravado thus becomes a benchmark of sorts of what an ‘ideal cop’ is.

As a kid, I also grew up watching such films. In Garv: Pride and Honour (2004), we see Salman Khan’s character justifying encounter killings and demonising human rights activists who speak out for those who have been killed.

But in our school civics textbooks, I found information that was so contradictory. It was confusing.

“Aren’t human rights activists good people who fight for our well-being?”

People cheered the hero as he took the reins of justice in his own hands and gave the aggressors ‘what they deserve’. These acts of might look good on the big screen, but their actual reality is terrifying. Jolly LLB 2 (2017) is one of the very few films which captures the true nature of extra-judicial killings. It is a disenchanting tale that tells us how the very people who we so dearly accept as our judges, juries and executioners, violate with impunity the very law that they are supposed to protect.

People must realise that the institutions of courts and laws exist for a purpose. They exist to protect the rights of not only the victim, but also the accused – who is pitted against the might of the state with all its resources. The state can very easily abuse these powers. That is why we have so many safeguards embedded in our law in favour of the accused.

While some cases might make us believe that these safeguards are detrimental to the cause of speedy justice, a large majority of these cases aren’t easily conclusive and cut in stone. And when police takes it on themselves to become the sole authority on justice, it becomes no better than a lynch mob.

At this point of time, some well-meaning people would like to point out that the case wasn’t a clear ‘encounter’ and the police, according to its narrative, fired in self defense.

Yes. But this encounter-culture would really explain why the officers in these cases won’t try to simply incapacitate the assailants, shoot them in the legs, or at least save a few of them – if not all.

Perhaps they killed all four of the accused because they had the full confidence that, far from being criticised, they would be celebrated for their acts.

So who caused the death of the four accused in the Hyderabad rape case?

It was us. Our bloodlust and vengeance. Our glorification of violence.

We, who do not understand the difference between justice and revenge, murdered not only the accused, but also the rule of law, due process and the spirit of our constitution.

Abhineet Maurya is a law aspirant and is currently preparing for the CLAT exam. He reads in his free time and likes watching TV shows/anime. You can reach him at abhineetmaurya99@gmail.com