Mad debate, part 2

[The “part 1” is this post.]

In his HT article from the second week of September, Vir Sanghvi continues to be confused*-

First of all, the encounter reminds us of what we already know. When Indian police forces believe that they are dealing with a terrorist, they simply kill him or her without bothering with due process…

Second, let’s not pretend that what happened in Gujarat occurred because Narendra Modi is Chief minister. Policemen routinely kill terror suspects in all Indian states…

Third, the policy of encounters has broad public support. Conduct a poll and ask people whether policemen should try and build cases against terrorists, should persuade witnesses to testify and then wait six years for the judgement or whether they should just bump them off and a majority of Indians will prefer execution to prosecution.

Fourth, if we give our policemen the power to kill anybody they regard as a terrorist, then are we not compromising the basis of our society? We know now that encounter cops run berserk in India, killing innocent people at will and building up huge fortunes for themselves…

Fifth, even if we give our policemen a licence to kill …

Sixth: …I accept that many officers tell lies to win medals for themselves. But there are also honest policemen who genuinely believe that a) the best way to fight terrorism is to kill the terrorists and b) that they have society’s sanction to do so.

He’s right about society’s hypocrisy. In that case society should decide where the “rule of law” ends and war begins. From my previous post-

Yes, the rules of war are not the same as those applicable in normal times. But if one declares a war, everyone on the battlefield is fair game. If a country wants to wage a war against terror, or insurgency, or whatever, it should declare the relevant territory to be a battle field where normal rules of conduct don’t apply. Then people in such a “war zone” are no longer limited by the “rule of law,” just like the military isn’t. One can’t have one’s cake and eat it too, disarm civilians, subject them to the rule of law, and fight a war against them at the same time.

I slept on Sanghvi’s article for some weeks, but Don Boudreaux’s concise but powerful argument made me link to it-

Mr. Peters assumes that procedural protections for persons accused of wrongdoing exist primarily to make life easier for the accused. Not so. The chief functions of these protections are two. One is to shield innocent persons from being wrongly convicted and punished. The other is to keep the state’s powers in check.

A state that can summarily execute anyone whom it assures its citizens is a dangerous terrorist will itself, in time, become the most dangerous terrorist of all.

*I tried this with two different browsers-HT’s website seems to have an intermittent problem. Visiting an article directly (with a cleared cache) gave me a 500 error. Refreshing the page fixed it.

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  • Satish Mantha  On October 12, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Nice article. For the correct link, replace the “News” in your link with “india-news”.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On October 12, 2009 at 11:17 am

      That works too. I don’t know why I faced problems for a few minutes the other day, but it seems they fixed it, or it only manifests itself under certain conditions.

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