New Delhi: The Supreme Court has listed for hearing on the opening day after the Summer vacation on July 3 a plea seeking an independent probe into the killing of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf, who were shot dead in police custody by three men posing as journalists in Prayagraj in April.
The case is listed before a bench of Justices S R Bhat and Aravind Kumar on a petition filed by advocate Vishal Tiwari, who has also sought an inquiry into the 183 police encounters that have taken place in Uttar Pradesh since 2017.
Court sought answers to the killings that was telecast live
While hearing the matter on April 28, the top court had questioned the Uttar Pradesh government why Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf, a former MLA, were paraded before media while being taken to a hospital for a medical checkup in police custody. The two were shot at point blank range and died instantaneously as the three assailants rained bullets.
It had also asked the Uttar Pradesh government how the killers got the knowledge about the two being taken to hospital. The counsel appearing for Uttar Pradesh had told the top court the state government has constituted a three-member commission of inquiry to probe the incident that was shown live on national television.
A special investigation team (SIT) of Uttar Pradesh police is also investigating the case, the counsel had said. The top court had directed the state government to submit a status report on the incident and its aftermath.
Report on Dubey encounter
"The affidavit shall also disclose the steps taken with respect to the incident which had occurred immediately prior to the one in question and also disclose the follow up steps pursuant to Justice Dr B S Chauhan's Commission Report," the apex court had said in its April 28 order, while referring to the killing of gangster Vikas Dubey in a police encounter. Dubey and his men had ambushed and killed eight policemen at his native Bikru village in Kanpur district in July 2020. He was arrested in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and was being brought back in UP police custody when he allegedly tried to escape and was shot dead. Doubts were raised about the genuineness of the police encounter.
Former apex court judge Justice Chauhan headed the commission that probed the encounter killing of Vikas Dubey in 2020.
Probe into 183 encounters since 2017
In his plea, Tiwari has sought constitution of an independent expert committee to probe the killing of Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf. "Issue guidelines/directions to safeguard the rule of law by constituting an independent expert committee under the chairmanship of a former Supreme Court justice to inquire into the 183 encounters which had occurred since 2017 as stated by Uttar Pradesh Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) and also to inquire into the police custody murder of Atiq and Ashraf," his petition said.
Referring to Ahmad's killing, the plea said, "Such actions by police are a severe threat to democracy and rule of law and lead to a police state."
Besides Tiwari's petition, a separate plea has been filed in the top court by the sister of Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf seeking constitution of a commission of inquiry chaired by a retired apex court judge to go into their "custodial" and "extra judicial deaths". In her petition, Aisha Noori, has also sought a comprehensive inquiry by an independent agency into the "campaign of encounter killings, arrests and harassment" targeting her family, allegedly being carried out by the Uttar Pradesh government.
"The petitioner, who has lost her brothers and nephew in 'state-sponsored killings', is constrained to approach this court through the instant writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, seeking a comprehensive inquiry by a committee headed by a retired judge of this court or in the alternative by an independent agency into a campaign of 'extra-judicial' killings carried out by the respondents," Noori has said in her plea.