Over a week after four people accused of raping and murdering a veterinarian were shot dead by the police in Telangana, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Monday constituted a panel of two Supreme Court judges to speed up sexual assault cases that remain stalled in courts across the country.
The judicial committee, comprising Justices Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, will monitor rape cases being heard in trial courts and expeditiously dispose of them in coordination with the state high courts concerned. Sources said the decision was taken in view of a perception that the people were losing faith in the judiciary due to delays in resolving such cases.
Amid a raging debate over the alleged encounter killing, Chief Justice Bobde had admitted last week that the country's judicial system suffers from a few flaws that need urgent correction. "There is no doubt that the criminal justice system must reconsider its position and attitude towards laxity and the eventual time it takes to dispose of criminal matters," he said.
Even so, the top judge maintained that extrajudicial killings cannot compensate for delays in the justice delivery system. "I don't think justice can ever be or ought to be instant. And justice must never ever take the form of revenge. I believe justice loses its character of justice if it becomes revenge," he said.
Four people -- truck drivers and cleaners in their twenties -- were arrested in connection with the rape and murder of the woman on November 27. Amid calls for giving them the death penalty, police personnel shot them dead the very next week at the spot of the crime. They claimed that the accused's attempts to escape had left them with no option but to use lethal force.
While rights activists accused the police of killing the accused in an "encounter" without giving them a chance to prove their innocence, many politicians openly termed their action as a necessary evil in the absence of a judicial system capable of providing speedy justice.
Talasani Srinivas Yadav, a minister in the K Chandrasekhar Rao government, said it was a message to rapists that "if you do something that's so wrong and cruel, there will be an encounter". Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy also applauded the police for what he claimed was timely action. "Hats off to KCR and Telangana police officers, the way it happened," he said.