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1. Extra-Judicial Killings

What is Extra-judicial killing?

  • Any act of killing that happens outside the judicial process is called Extra Judicial Killing. It has not been defined explicitly by the international law. However, US Torture Victim Protection Act defines it as “a deliberate killing not authorized by a previous judgement pronounced by a regular constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensible by civilized peoples”. Government authorities such as Police, Army, Intelligence agencies, etc. are found involved in extrajudicial killings e.g. encounters, targeted killings/assassinations, custodial deaths/killings of prisoners in jail and killing under AFSPA.

Ethical issues involved in Extra-Judicial Killings:

  • Violation of law: EJK is a crime; it is a murder and a cognisable offence under the law of the land.

  • Violation of Fundamental Right to Life and Liberty: Since, life is being taken away without following the procedure established by law.

  • Lack of Objectivity: Those who are generally killed belong to either poor background, or from depressed castes and minority groups.

  • Violation of the Principle of Presumption of innocence: One is considered innocent until proven guilty.

  • Justification of death in the name of Social order: However, State tyranny can be far worse than the violence caused by terrorist groups.

  • Miscarriage of justice: Shooting in cold blood is preferred over systematic investigations, trial and conviction because of rampant corruption, delayed justice and prejudice against a community or caste.

  • Factually guilty but legally innocent: There is a possibility that a guilty person is legally innocent e.g. children involved in terrorist groups.

  • Cash-for-encounter Raj: As observed in Uttar Pradesh, staged shootouts appear to be a shortcut to promotions, bribes and publicity for police officials

  •  Undermining the value of life: Recently the Philippines President compared his extrajudicial killings as a lesser crime than of stealing a peso.

  • Counterproductive: Violence begets violence and leads to the brutalisation of society, and hence is counterproductive.

  • Lack of compassion: People do not necessarily celebrate the death of criminals. But, there is no palpable uproar over extrajudicial killings and the readiness to kill.

  • Power must not be conferred arbitrarily. It is essential to follow procedures established by law. In Manipur PIL, Supreme Court held that even AFSPA is not out of the ambit of judicial review and ordered a CBI enquiry in it. Every Extra-Judicial killing has to be investigated according to the set of guidelines issued by Supreme Court in PUCL VS State of Maharashtra case. Else, the society may suffer from fear psychosis and will eventually loose trust in the system.

November Ethical Issues

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