Hyderabad: Amid widespread jubilation over the encounter of the suspects in the rape-murder of the Hyderabad veterinarian, rights activists wondered if the police would ever mete out “instant justice” to politicians and religious bigwigs facing similar accusations. The four men were poor and had no socio-political capital which prompted the seemingly swift action by the Telangana police, said the activists.

Navkiran Singh, a senior human rights lawyer, was clearly outraged. “Statistics show that people who are given death sentences are either the poor ones or the minorities. Even in this case of extra-judicial killing, they could be easily killed due to the same reason. All decisions in such rape cases are politically oriented, and poor people, who have zero influence, face the brunt. So, the whole system is prejudiced towards the underprivileged,” he argued.

Many rape-accused religious leaders, with a great fan following, are enjoying the fruits of a slow-moving justice system. The most recent of such cases is that of Nithyananda. The self-proclaimed godman apparently owns an island in Ecuador. While the government of the South American nation denies this, Nithyananda has managed to flee India. In 2010, a rape case was registered against him, but it took eight years for the trial to begin. A native of Tamil Nadu, Nithyananda, whose real name is Rajashekharan, had been avoiding court appearances citing “religious” reasons.

A law student has accused former BJP MP Swami Chinmayanand of raping her in 2011 when she lived at his ashram. The case is still under investigation. In fact, the girl spent some time in jail after Chinmayanand filed a case of extortion against her. In September 2019, a court sent Asaram Bapu to Jodhpur Central Jail after giving him the life sentence for raping a minor girl. Another religious leader, Ram Rahim, who was jailed in 2017, is still revered among the jail inmates and is fondly called as ‘Baba’. Closer home, a bishop, Franco Mulakkal, is facing trial for raping a Catholic nun in Kerala.

It clearly shows that those with political clout and the backing of institutions like the Church can withstand allegations. They will not face the risk of lynching, or “police justice”, said the activists.

Some human rights lawyers stress the need for instant trials in sensitive cases like the Hyderabad rape-murder. Senior advocate C Mallesh Rao told NewsMeter, “In all the rape cases in India, the investigating agencies are taking a lot of time for no particular reason. If the police file the charge sheet immediately and courts finish the trial within weeks, the memory of the witness will be fresh. With these, there will be fewer chances to destroy evidence, and hence the conviction rate will increase.”

Human rights activists said the judiciary system must be upgraded at once. “Even more judges need to be appointed in courts so that they may solve cases on an urgent basis. But this [encounter] is not the way to calm the mob. There will be a total anarchy,” said advocate Rao.

Amritha Mohan

Amritha Mohan is a reporter at the NewsMeter. Shortly after completing her Master's in Communication at the University of Hyderabad, she began teaching courses on media and culture as a guest lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong. Amritha has previously interned with news organisations such as Greater Kashmir and Newslaundry. A lover of travel and photography, she spends most of her time planning road trips to the North-East. Nothing makes her happier than a green turf and a team to play football with. She primarily reports on education, tech, human-interesting and critical features.

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