tharoor178_ Sonu MehtaHindustan Times via Getty Images_atiqahmed Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Crime and Punishment in Uttar Pradesh

Every time a high-profile criminal case in India collapses, there is renewed clamor in India for vigilante justice of the kind seen last month with the public murder of a convicted mobster. But what is really needed is deep reform – of police forces, the judiciary, and the political system.

NEW DELHI – Last month’s murder, on live television, of the notorious gangster and former member of India’s parliament Atiq Ahmed has triggered anguished debates about how such an event could happen in a modern democracy. Along with the killers, who were apprehended on the spot, India’s entire criminal-justice system is now being put on trial.

On the fateful day, the police had taken Ahmed from the high-security prison where he was serving a life sentence for kidnapping – and awaiting trial for 100 more pending cases, with charges ranging from extortion to murder – for a medical examination. Exiting the police van at the hospital gates, the handcuffed Ahmed was besieged by television cameras and journalists shouting questions at him. Three of those “media personnel” pulled out guns and shot him dead, along with his brother, at point-blank range. Cameras whirred as the victims hit the ground.

The murder left most citizens shocked. But many applauded, particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where it occurred.

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