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Stop Fake Encounters

Updated: August 11, 2012 1:43 pm

“Policemen will not be excused for committing murder in the name of ‘encounter’ under the pretext that they were carrying out the orders of their superior officers or politicians, however high. In the Nuremburg trials the Nazi war criminals took the plea that ‘orders are order’, nevertheless they were hanged. If a policemen is given an illegal order by any superior to do a fake ‘encounter’, it is his duty to refuse to carry out such illegal order, otherwise he will be charged for murder, and if found guilty sentenced to death. The ‘encounter’ philosophy is a criminal philosophy, and all policemen must know this. Trigger-happy policemen who think they can kill people in the name of ‘encounter’ and get away with it should know that the gallows await them,” said Justice Markandey Katju in Prakash Kadam V. Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta, (2011) 6 SCC 189, para 28.

Just recently it was published in The Economic Times newspaper dated January 15, 2011 that the Supreme Court on sought explanations from the Centre and the Andhra Pradesh government on the alleged staged killing of top Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, saying it cannot allow the Indian democratic republic to kill its own children. “We cannot allow the Republic killings own children,” said a bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and RM Lodha.

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar in Sunday Times of India (August 28, 2011) writes: “The Jammu & Kashmir State Human Rights Commission says 2,730 bodies have been found in unmarked graves in Kashmir. This officially confirms earlier accusations by human rights groups. Security forces once claimed any such graves were those of unidentified militants killed in military encounters. But the commission says 574 bodies have already been identified as those of local villagers, and DNA tests will expose many more. This was mass murder.” No civilised country can allow this to continue with impunity. What a shame further if such murderers get medals and bravery awards for killing innocents! Even the international community has started taking notice of what is described as “fake encounter” or “extrajudicial executions”. Resolution 5 of the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in 1980 “deplores and condemns and affirms” as a particularly abhorrent crime, the practice of killing and executing political opponents or suspected offenders carried out by armed forces or other governmental agencies. In Andhra Pradesh alone from 1985 to 1986 in just one year, 54 persons were killed in staged encounters and in 1987-88, there were 81 killings.

How can we ignore that the enforcement of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) in Manipur has led to 260 killings in 2009 alone? How can we ignore that security personnel many times are tempted to indulge in fake encounters for rewards and medals? Ironically, Manipur heads the list of police gallantry medal awardees during the current year. Such draconian acts like AFPSA which confer blanket discretionary powers on men in uniform needs a thorough review immediately so that its naked abuse is stopped or at least minimised. Those in uniform must always remember that they too are not above the law and if the indulge in fake killings, they will face the harshest punishment. Justice Markandey Katju in Prakash Kadam v. Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta, (2011) 6 SCC 189, para 27 held: “In cases where a fake encounter is proved against policemen in a trial, they must be given death sentence, treating it as the rarest of rare cases. Fake encounters are nothing but cold-blooded, brutal murders by persons who are supposed to uphold the law. If crimes are committed by ordinary people, ordinary punishment should be given, but if the offence is committed by policemen, much harsher punishment should be given to them because they do an act totally contrary to their duties.” Fake killings are most shameful and a frontal invasion on the legal and constitutional rights of those who are killed. It cannot be allowed to go on with impunity. No civilised country can afford to ignore it. The appropriate sternest steps must be taken to check this evil menace from turning into an incurable disaster which endangers the right to life of even ordinary citizens.

By Sanjeev Sirohi

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