THE SLIPPERY SLOPE argument is considered a fallacy because it takes morally questionable events and extrapolates another event, usually a more extreme case, from it. But when the slippery slope is evident in front of your eyes, it is hard to restrict it to fallacies. The chain from a gang of rapist-murderers being shot dead in Hyderabad by the police to the shooting down of gangster Vikas Dubey is clear as daylight because of the striking similarities. In both, criminals who were under the escort of armed policemen managed to break free and snatch guns before being shot down without any fatality on the other side. The parallel is so strong that the Uttar Pradesh police were forced to argue in an affidavit in the Supreme Court that both encounters were different.
The difference is merely in specifics. The slippery slope is created from one police department getting away with killing a criminal because the outrage of the crime justified it and public sentiment was on their side. And once Telangana did so without repercussions, UP applied the principle for an equally outrageous crime.
Neither the government, the police nor the majority of the public see anything wrong in such summary justice. The reason these encounters continue is because the only institution that can check it—the judiciary–does not do a good job of it. In the last many decades, judges have umpteen number of times ruled against illegal encounters and yet it never seems to go out of fashion. Both the Telangana and Uttar Pradesh encounters were deliberately brazen. They wanted the public to feel satisfied and served a lesson to other criminals.
And yet the judiciary acts too late and too slow for any deterrent value. All policemen in the Telangana encounter remain heroes. Almost all the encounter specialists of Mumbai who went on a killing spree in the mid-1990s became heroes, went into disgrace for a while not for the encounters but their corruption, and are now reinstated. Encounters are usually with political sanction and it comes bundled along with fixing the process after the killing. On July 22nd, the Supreme Court approved a UP government-appointed panel that would investigate the Dubey killing. In theory, an external independent body is a good mechanism to get to the truth. But then, as the Indian Express reported, one of the members in the panel is an ex-policeman who has already made up his mind that the police were right. Its report said: ‘Days ago, [KL] Gupta, who served as the DGP of UP from April 1998 to December 1999, mainly under the BJP government led by Kalyan Singh, said in a TV debate that it was not right to doubt the police over the encounter.’
Since Dubey’s alleged killing couldn’t have happened without government orders, what can you expect from a panel appointed by the same government? You should also not be surprised when other states see such killings over similar cases. The slippery slope can keep going for a very long time.