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1.Ethics And Encounter Killings

  • Fake and staged encounters are becoming very common. Even suspected smugglers of exotic timbers have been killed in the past in the name of self-defence. Recently, Uttar Pradesh is seeing increase in encounter culture even after Supreme Court extensive guidelines on deaths in police encounters. National Human Rights Commission has also issued notices against such encounters in UP. Various reasons are cited which encourages encounter killing such as India's slow judicial system and underlying corruption, ease in getting bails, criminals running operations from within the jail. But, it reflects poorly on international rankings, for eg: low rankings in World Justice Project Index, ‘rule of law’ index etc. The extra judicial killings involve several ethical issues:

  • Affects public trust – as encounters affect credibility of the criminal justice system & violates Rule of Law. It also shows lack of trust of public functionaries in the system itself  

  • Abuse of power by state authorities – rather they should act as the protector of personal liberty, dignity and basic human rights.

  • Casual police attitude - towards investigation, towards rule of law and life itself.

  • Sense of injustice– due to not following the due process of law and giving the right to fair trial. It also gives birth to residual anger which leads to more instances of law and order cases in future by the close kin/relatives.

  • Self-interest not public interest – At times, such steps are taken for personal enrichment or political expediency

  • Affects accountability and transparency - as required by police authorities towards legislature, judiciary, media and public

  • Against Human Right to life - as guaranteed by Article 21 of the constitution. It also violates the right to live with dignity Affects social fabric – as young generations are imprinted with wrong ideals of expediency over professionalism. Vigilantism can take roots taking justification from the incidents of encounter killings by state.

  • Give legitimacy to criminal elements – These encounters also become a breeding ground for recruitment by criminal elements because when the state acts with impunity, it erases the sharp line that separates the state from criminals

  • Lack of compassion and sympathy – The encounter culture shows lack of compassion towards human life.

  • Personal vendetta – At times, uniformed men tend to resort to extrajudicial killing to wreak vengeance on militants or extremists targeting their colleagues and civilians.

  • Unlawful means – The means to achieve an end is very important. Law and order can’t be preserved by breaking the law by the law protectors themselves. Although ethics of public safety and societal law and order sometimes require swift neutralization of habitual offenders of violent crimes to save the society from further nuisance. Retributive theory also calls for punishment of offenders for criminal behavior to restore the peaceful balance in society. Besides, a large number of policemen have also lost their lives in such encounters. Therefore, we need to take a balanced view of factors. However, the rule of law says that every human being, including the worst criminal is entitled to human rights and due process. Police being a mighty force cannot always resort to the theory of self-defence especially when the opposite party is a minor group with fewer weapons. Also, utilitarian philosophies believe in rehabilitation as it looks forward and believes in social benefits. Thus, there is a need to end this culture of impunity and restructure police training, to infuse basic human values. The primordial value is that it is the responsibility of every organ of the State to function within the four corners of constitutional responsibility. That is the ultimate rule of law. 86  


1.1. Ethics And Acid Attack

  • India has the highest number of acid attacks in the world. The number of acid attack continues to rise despite stricter laws and punishments. As per NCRB data, 187 acid attacks and 202 attempts of such attack took place across India in 2016. There are various ethical issues associated with such heinous act:

  • Wrong Intention: It is a premeditated act of violence with an intention of permanently disfiguring the victim.  Cultural inequalities between gender: Acid violence is a gender-based violence as most of the victims are women

  • Lack of apathy in government: Seriousness is not seen on the part of government in handling the issue as regulation on the sale of acid and policy for welfare of the victims is not being implemented seriously.

  • Lifelong psychological trauma: because their facial deformities and appearance reduces their chance of employment, disturbs the balance of victim’s family, affects their involvement with society etc.

  • Dominating attitude of male: society displays a peculiar mindset of male entitlement and power. Many times the reasons for attacks are seen to be rejecting an offer from a boy, not obeying husband’s wishes etc. Thus, it is seen as a measure of controlling women’s behavior. Also, attacker intends to destroy what society considers to be one of the most valuable traits of a woman—her beauty.

  • Lack of basic values: It shows the failure of society and education system to teach compassion and gender equality. Government regulates sale of weapon. However, acid which is being used as a weapon against women on a regular basis is not attracting much attention. Meanwhile, perpetrators are fearlessly using it to restore their hollow pride and honour to the extent of grave injustice towards victims. It can be equated with gender terrorism. India can learn from neighbor Bangladesh where stricter laws such as death penalty for committing an acid attack and stricter regulation of sale of acid, has seen decline in such attacks. In addition to better laws and stricter implementation, timely compensation, specialised medical care and rehabilitation should be provided to the victim.

February Ethical Issues

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