Former Punjab and Mumbai police chief Julio Rebeiro tells Ketaki Ghoge that these shootouts have wider public support because people do not have enough faith in judiciary.
Why do police resort to extra-judicial killings?
Extra-judicial killings are akin to murder. However, many encounters, which happened in Mumbai with the underworld were not custodial deaths but shoot-on-sight deaths. One of the reasons for this is that the judicial system does not deliver. If criminals were prosecuted as soon as they were arrested there would have been no extra-judicial killings.
There is public support to this kind of measures because the middle classes feel threatened by the criminals. The judicial system is flawed and often people have little faith in getting justice through legitimate means.
Do such killings have tacit approval from the Government of India?
I can’t speak on behalf of the Government of India. With reference to Mumbai, I can say that there was political approval. Though there are no written orders, such approvals give legitimacy to encounter specialists, who are worshipped as heroes.
Since this is a violation of the rule of law, what needs to be done to curb such violations?
I think if there were no public support, the extra-judicial killings wouldn’t have happened. Even Amnesty International has commented that there is public approval for extra-judicial killings in India. The prosecution process must be speeded up.
Are courts doing enough or should they do more?
When these cases come under their scanner, courts can only do as much as is permitted by the Constitution. Human rights activists can also function as watchdogs. There is a glimmer of hope from the judiciary, especially after the Jessica Lall trial.