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An atrocity for an atrocity is not justice

Why was the man charged under the NSA? There was no issue of national security involved in the matter.
Last Updated : 07 July 2023, 19:35 IST

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Rule of law and norms of civilised conduct demand that an illegality should not be countered with another illegality, nor an atrocity answered with another. But primitive instincts sometimes get the better of law and civilised conduct, and thinking and actions tend to be goaded by passions or unreformed personal, social and political compulsions. A man, identified as Pravesh Shukla, did the despicable act of urinating on a tribal person in Sidhi in Madhya Pradesh, and when the news and the video became viral, it rightly invited horrified responses and condemnations. The state government arrested the culprit and booked him under the National Security Act (NSA), among other IPC provisions, and sent a bulldozer to his house and demolished it. The government claimed that it had delivered instant justice.

Why was the man charged under the NSA? There was no issue of national security involved in the matter, and it was certainly an overreaction intended to make a point. That point was the need to be seen as imposing the harshest punishment on the culprit when the state Assembly elections are in sight. The incident was particularly damaging for the government because the culprit was known to be associated with the BJP. But the demolition of the house was wrong and illegal and was itself an atrocity. It was the house of the culprit’s parents.

However bad and abominable the man’s action was, the government had no right to punish him without due process. Bulldozer action is a weapon of retribution, developed by the Yogi Adityanath government in UP in the name of instant justice, and used mainly against the minorities. It is not prescribed by law and has no place in a rule-based society. The State has no right to enforce vigilante justice, but it has institutionalised it in UP and MP.

Even the worst criminal has the right to due process, which includes a fair trial. The government was playing to the electoral gallery with its arbitrary action against the man. Such arbitrariness makes a mockery of the judicial process. The State is bound by the Constitution to follow the rule of law and when it does not do that, it amounts to violation of citizens’ rights and anarchy. It should not return to primitive and medieval notions of crime and punishment, or go by retrograde values and practices. That will undermine the idea of a civilised and constitutional way of life. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan also honoured the victim with traditional gestures of respect. That is fine, but it also raises the question whether he would have done so if the culprit was not a BJP associate. Politicians are electoral beings, and showing is part of the being.

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Published 07 July 2023, 18:07 IST

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