Ganti Prasadam: Murder most foul
Killers always try to hide their identity. There are lots of advantages in working secretly. The job of investigators is to remove the mask and...
It is the primary responsibility of the State to secure the lives of the people and protect their right of expression. Both are natural rights. If death is consequence of expressing the political thought opposite that of the State, we cannot claim that we are living in a civilized society where the law should rule and not unidentifiable killers.
The very fact that thousands paid homage to Ganti Prasadam in the historic town of Bobbili in Vizianagaram district, closing down their shops and activity reflected his pro-people image. That he spent his active life to help relatives and friends of martyrs under the banner of Amaraveerula Bandhu Mitrula Sangham shows the peaceful path he had chosen at the fag-end of his life. The sin or crime committed by killers is that he was not allowed his ways of living. He lived for others and for that he was killed by unidentified persons.
It is the combination of hiding identity and wielding lethal weapons that is fatal for raising voices and opposing a corrupt administration. Who can hold lethal weapons in broad daylight? Unlike in the USA, fortunately, AP towns are not infested with gun-toting criminals. Guns or pistols are the luxury of criminals with hidden agenda. The State has a duty to
a. execute according to law only, whether it is Godse or Kasab
b. to secure the lives of people from being killed or injured, whether by criminals or by the police
c. not to facilitate killings of people by negligence or indifference, whether by drought or floods or maladministration or firings against agitating people, and finally
d. not to kill, whether in fake encounters or as unidentifiable killers, or under orders from the High Command.
At every stage there is a liability for those who are entrusted with responsibility of these sovereign functions. If anybody is hanged without following process of law, if State failed to secure the life, if its indifference facilitated a murder, if it killed them, he should be answerable to rulers and the people, the ultimate rulers.
We proudly proclaim that the makers of the Constitution recognized, mentioned and guaranteed the right to life which is natural. The State made a solemn promise in Article 21 that it would kill as per the established procedure of law. The rulers promise that they profess true and faithful allegiance to the Constitution established by law and they would perform their constitutional duties conscientiously. There is no consequence if they violate this solemn promise.
Like their political bosses, IPS officers, who wield lethal weapons or order those who wield lethal weapons to kill, should also be asked to take a solemn oath of office before they enter the armed police service. And every breach of promise should be punished as perjury.
The civilized justice administration is created to examine whether a person was killed as per law. This is the real judicial scrutiny of executive action; rather, we should say, judicial scrutiny of State execution. Every execution is and should be State execution after due prosecution based on impartial investigation and unimpeachable evidence.
If a citizen can locate negligence or facilitation of killing by any organ or person of the State like Bhopal Gas Leak or Kedarnath floods or killing people in jail, it is a crime of negligently causing death and also a civil wrong making the State vicariously liable through that agent. There is plethora of judgments in various jurisprudences to fix the liability of State for such killings. The judicial process everywhere holds the State guilty and liable for killing the citizen. The maxim 'king can do wrong' no longer offers immunity. The State immunity is killed according to established procedure of law. The State shall be liable. This is the basic justice, constitutional justice, and required function of the State as an institution of justice administration.
The most heinous of all is the killing by agents of the State without following process of law. Spreading bullets, as happens in third-rate feature films, cannot happen in the street. Theater cannot provoke armed personnel to use bullets to kill voices against them. A protector cannot turn a killer. Lethal combination of State agents and their power to kill is the antithesis of the rule of law.
It is astonishing that there is no mechanism to identify unidentified killers of people. Complaints are not taken at all; if taken, not with due seriousness. Follow-up of such complaints is neither prescribed nor possible. While there is a strong invisible or unidentifiable mechanism to kill complaints, there is neither direct nor indirect mechanism to stop killings by the State. The Human Rights Commission is not fully developed all over the country and has not reached the grass-roots levels. The complaint has to be carried from Nellore to New Delhi, which is impossible. And New Delhi cannot investigate or probe or adjudicate a murder in Nellore.
There is no machinery to take complaints against the State, the police and the courts of justice in this country. This is perhaps based on enormous trust we have reposed in the responsible character of those that created no system to receive and hear complaints against them. It is a case of most serious breach of trust standing on the ruins of constitutional system of governance. Ganti Prasadam is part of these ruins.
(The writer is Professor and Coordinator, Center for Media Law & Public Policy, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad)