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OP-ED: Caught in a crossfire

  • Published at 10:23 pm August 11th, 2020

A crime should not be fought with another crime

We hear the word, but do we know what it actually means? According to the dictionary: “Crossfire is gunfire, for example in a battle, that comes from two or more different directions and passes through the same area.” So, it can be understood that this is a situation in which two parties are involved and bullets are shot from both ends. 

For example, when a team of law enforcement agencies goes to make an arrest or raid a place, and the other party, alleged criminals, starts firing at them. The team then responds by firing back to save their own lives. Here, bullets passed each other and a crossfire happened. 

But what if I pick someone up, take them to a place, and shoot them, then stage a crossfire by putting a gun in their hand? What if I also ask my friend to shoot me in the leg to make it look real? Is that a crossfire, too? Let’s say I am a law enforcement officer and it was a clear case of crossfire, and I was fired at. Do I have any credit in killing the alleged criminal in a crossfire? No, because it’s not my job to kill a criminal. 

My job is to arrest them and present them in front of the court. If it happened to be a case of crossfire and the criminal was killed by me, then it happened because I tried to save myself. Not to establish justice; I killed a man to save my own life. There’s no credit that should be awarded for killing an alleged criminal. 

Instead, there should be an investigation into whether it was a case of real crossfire or a staged one. It is not my duty to serve justice by killing people. It’s the court’s job, not a law enforcement officer’s, to decide who is a criminal and who is not. If I stage a crossfire or encounter while being motivated by personal grudges, money, or other external pressure, no matter what happens next, the person killed extra-judicially would be denied the justice every human deserves to get. Even the worst criminals have the right to justice. 

So, crossfires can be staged and people can be killed without justice. This means extra-judicial killing is possible. Then what is to be done if the precedence clearly indicates that the rule of law is absent and people don’t get justice easily? What is to be done if a case takes years to get a verdict, and most of the time the criminal is released without punishment due to the loopholes or external pressure? 

A crime cannot be the answer to another crime. Rapists, murderers, and drug dealers should receive the punishment they deserve, but due process should be followed, justice should be served. Real criminals must be punished, but not a single innocent should face injustice because of loopholes in the system. 

You may ask, what if the real ones always escape and innocents are punished? Does that mean we should kill all alleged criminals? What if someone unjustly killed your loved one in a crossfire by framing them as a rapist or a drug dealer? You would never get justice, but there would be people celebrating your loved one’s death without knowing or even understanding what extra-judicial killing is.

There would be people sharing the news with captions like “salute,” “justice served,” “heroes,” and many more things praising the wrong- doers who killed your loved one for personal or political reasons, or for money. You cannot do anything because you were them once. You previously supported the so-called praiseworthy work of crossfires, and yet you are the victim now. 

You supported an act of injustice without understanding the consequences it could bring. You were unknowingly a nurturer of an evil act because you never really cared for anything but emotion. Emotion drove you to support one crime to fight another. Yes, the system is to be blamed, but so are you. I was you once, and I thought, why not just kill them? All of them! No criminal left, hence no more crimes. 

But I was so wrong -- I never thought that one crime could give birth to a thousand more. I never thought I was choosing the wrong way to fight. Justice is mandatory, but it must be achieved the right way. We cannot allow a non-judicial solution for a problem that exists in the judiciary. 

Instead, we should work to establish a rule of law so that the cases don’t take years to get a verdict, and criminals are not released due to external pressure. The goal should be creating a strong judicial system where everything is under the control of law, and law is under the control of morality. 

If we walk away from the path of law and order, we will be next in line for future crossfires. We should keep in mind that there cannot be any law that serves some individuals and not all of humanity. There shouldn’t be any section, sub-section, or clause that takes away our rights in the name of the law. 

Shah Md Akib Majumder is a student of law.