Encounter killing — instant justice served?

‘#justiceserved’, ‘#telanganajusticedelivered’, ‘#vikasdubeyencounter’, ‘#oneshotjustice’ and many such hashtags trended on various social media platforms after the ‘much talked about’ encounter killing of the four accused rapists in Hyderabad and the encounter killing of the gangster ‘Vikas Dubey’ in Uttar Pradesh took place. About 103 alleged criminals were killed in encounters since 2017 in Uttar Pradesh and the number keeps on increasing. So, are these encounters justified? Does encounter killing provides justice?

Encounter killing — A self-defense attack carried out by the police or the armed officers against the criminals when they are engaged in an encounter.

History of encounter killings in India

Many cases of encounter killings have been registered in India. The most recent case is of the UP gangster Vikas Dubey, who was charged for more than 60 criminal cases, was shot dead in an encounter by the police. The encounter killing of the four rapists accused for raping a 25 year old doctor in Hyderabad was also one of the recent controversial encounter in the country. Apart from these many controversial encounters have taken place in the past which includes the encounter killing of terrorists in the Batla house, the killing of the students associated with the Students’ Islamic Movement of India known as the Bhopal jail encounter, the Ishrat Jahan encounter in Gujarat, the extra-judicial killings of Manipur and many more. These are some of the encounters in a long line of alleged encounters. All of these encounters are not justified, many of these encounters are alleged to be fake encounters. The number of fake encounters in India is increasing, with the most number of cases being reported in Uttar Pradesh followed by Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.

Why are encounter killings celebrated by people?

What is wrong if Vikas Dubey was killed in the encounter, he was a gangster and numerous cases were filed against him. He deserved this! These are some of the reasons on which people celebrated the encounter killing of Vikas Dubey.

The main reason behind people celebrating the extra-judicial killings is their sentiments. As the encounter killings of the criminals provide ‘so called’ instant justice to the victim, it is supported by the people. People are disappointed by the ‘delayed justice’ offered by the judiciary system. The efficiency of our judiciary system is always questioned. The trust of people on the judicial system is decreasing for obvious reasons. The ‘Nirbhaya case’ got justice after 7 long years and many such cases are pending .

What is wrong with encounter killings?

Encounter killings are justified only if they are carried out in self-defense against the criminals, but are all encounter killings carried out in self-defense? There are many instances where critics have been skeptical about the encounter killings and they even questioned whether the encounter killing was really needed?

All encounters are not carried out in self-defense, there are many instances where the police officials try to fabricate the encounter. Though the people killed in the encounters are criminals but these fabricated encounters cannot be justified. The legislature, the executive and the judiciary are the three arms of government and if the fabricated encounters are justified then there is no need of ‘the judiciary system’. These types of encounter killings mock the rule of law.

Fake encounters hinder the further investigation of the cases. Without proper investigation the cases are closed and the possibility that other people might be involved in these cases is ruled out. There have been instances where innocent people are executed in an encounter.

Allegations are made on police officers on executing innocents in encounter killing for money. Each and every person of this country including the criminals is entitled to the basic human rights which are violated by these fake encounters. There is a possibility that authorities start misusing the powers for their own benefits. Thus only the encounter killings which are a result of self-defense against the criminals are justified.

Why is the justice delayed? What can be done?

Justice delayed is justice denied’, a statement made by William E. Gladstone describes the frustration of the people of our country. More than 3.5 crores of cases are pending in India and the number is proliferating. Out of the 44.5 lakh cases in high court more than 8 lakh cases are a decade old. Thus, people’s sentiments make them think that encounter killings are better as they provide ‘instant justice’, but this is not the appropriate solution. The problem lies in the efficiency of the judiciary system and the improvement in that efficiency will be the solution. Vacancies in the judiciary system is one of the major reasons for the inefficiency of the judiciary system. Officials of the judiciary system are overworked. The government should focus on filling in the vacancies in the judiciary system.

Apart from this, the vacancy in the police department and the lack of resources is also the reason for the delayed justice. The police system should be made more accountable and should be made more independent from the government in order to avoid the influence of politicians on the police system and thus the law and order of the country can be improved. The government should take initiatives to improve the efficiency of the courts so that justice can be served quickly. To re-build the faith of people in the judiciary system, the government needs to take necessary actions.


People being skeptical on the efficiency of judiciary system of India is justified but celebrating a fake encounter killing of a criminal is not a very wise decision, as the further possibilities of investigation are ruled out. The only way out is to improve the efficiency of the country’s judiciary system so that people can rely on it.