Online Classes :- Current Affairs Part-3

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Farce replays: No one attacked Mangaluru pubgoers. So what was that video we all watched?

The acquittal of 25 Sri Ram Sene activists, nine years after they allegedly attacked women and men drinking at a Mangaluru pub, is yet another shocking failure of the criminal justice delivery system. This was an attack captured on camera with disturbing visuals of young women and men brutally assaulted by goons, followed by the perpetrators loudly boasting of their shameful exploits to newspapers and TV channels. Despite so much documentary evidence, the trial took a whopping nine years to complete and ended in acquittal “for want of evidence”.

When victims and witnesses hesitate to come forward to testify even in high profile cases or turn hostile in court, the police force cuts a sorry figure. A case like this involved several witnesses like assaulted persons and pub staff, visual footage, and oral testimony to newspapers, and yet police failed to meet the minimum requirement of a “proof beyond reasonable doubt”. The Karnataka police and home department must appeal the acquittal in a higher court and ensure those who took the law into their hands are awarded exemplary punishment.

The ugly face of vigilantism has continued to rear its head in Mangaluru, other parts of Karnataka, and the rest of the country so often since that 2009 attack but each failure of the police, prosecution and political leadership only emboldens more such attacks. When even high-profile cases fail, the police force has nowhere to hide. Its diminishing credibility and respect threaten both state and citizens.

When sensational crimes against women take place the kneejerk reaction of the political class is to call for changing the law to incorporate harsher punishment of such crimes. However, little attention is paid to enforcement of existing laws and ways of seeing them through to successful convictions. In such circumstances toughening the law won’t help and may even prove counterproductive. Moreover, in cases of vigilante violence, the perpetrators often enjoy the patronage and sympathy of many in the establishment. Criminal prosecutions in India must wade through multiple fault lines like politicisation, patriarchy and caste/ religious/ class biases to deliver justice. The police force is also in crying need of reforms, modernisation and sensitivity. This failing system suits lawbreakers. In upcoming elections in Karnataka and elsewhere, is a vote for better law and order too much to ask for?

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