Extra judicial killings in UP justified
Use of third degree methods on suspected culprits has been a regular practice in India which includes beating with sticks, giving electric shocks or ducking in water which in many cases has resulted in deaths of accused in custody. Many such cases have been reported and are being inquired into, but the new trend of sanctioning encounters to eliminate known criminals has caused concern.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suomoto notice of these encounters and issued notice to U.P Government. The commission has taken suo moto cognizance of the statements by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and others in election meetings in which they stated that criminals have only two options either to surrender and go to jail or get killed. The Commission has asked the U.P Government to respond to the notice within six weeks.
The leaders of BJP during election speeches have congratulated the police for establishing rule of law .It is not the first time that such a notice has been issued to U.P Government. Earlier also a notice had been issued to Chief Secretary of U.P Government. Such encounters have taken place in large number in which 15 suspected criminals killed and 88 injured during March to September this year. It places U.P Government in a unique position as being the only state which has given sanction for encounters to improve law and order in State.
The Commission has been informed about 22encounters. The Commission has observed that such extra judicial killings were not justified even if the law and order situation was grave. The Chief Minister, however, has been talking about encounters as a unique achievement of his Government as part of effort to improve law and order in the State. In election rallies for local bodies poll the state Ministers have been heard warning voters about the consequences if they did not vote for the ruling party.
To say the least such conduct on part of rulers will virtually give a free hand to the police force to use extra judicial methods. The result will be that many innocent persons may be targeted by police force with no checks. It is not unusual for police to make an innocent person confess to a crime which he may not have committed to escape torture in the hands of police. This was displayed in recent killing of young boy in Haryana where a bus conductor was made to confess having committed the murder before CBI was brought in for investigation at a later stage and found the real killer by undertaking scientific investigation.
The cases of police acting in a high handed manner even without encouragement by political bosses are not unknown but in case they get a free hand, the extent of their high handedness can only be imagined. There are many cases where innocents have been arrested and remained in jails for years before the courts could examine the evidence and declare them innocents. This also goes against the principle of a person being considered innocent unless proved guilty beyond doubt. Benefit of doubt has to be given to the accused The cases of political targeting persons who are considered as trouble makers at the instance of their police masters or because they are creating problems by exposing the high handedness of police which includes journalists. Use of such methods by some states ruled by BJP is not unknown. In a recent case the police of one state came rushing to national capital region to arrest a journalist on a flimsy report.
Agreed that Yogi Adityanath has had no experience of governance and may not be aware of limits under which he has to act, but BJP which believes in principle of more governance and less harassment of innocents should put an end to such practices. It would do no good if they get a reputation for using methods like extra judicial killings. Some such encounters have taken place in national capital region and not in some remote place in mountains or jungles and many have witnessed them.
There is also a feeling that many persons belonging to minority community have been made targets in such encounters. The manner in which police in U.P and Rajasthan has investigated killings of alleged carriers of cattle for slaughter or beef has not inspired confidence. In majority of cases, the dying declarations of victims have been disregarded and culprits allowed to go on bail. Law and order is a state subject and an important function, but it would be a sad day if the guardians of law resort to extra judicial methods indicating that the rule of law is no more sacred.
(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)