Supreme Court to examine plea alleging encounter killings in Uttar Pradesh

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine in detail “on the earliest possible date” a plea seeking a court-monitored CBI or SIT probe into incidents of alleged police encounters and killings in Uttar Pradesh. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi perused the materials on record and said the issues raised in the petition of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) required “serious consideration” and fixed the hearing on February 12.

“Having considered the pleadings brought on record and having heard …we are of the view that the matter would require an examination by the court on the earliest possible date. We accordingly fix the matter for hearing on February 12, on the top of the board,” the bench, which also comprised justices Ashok Bhushan and S K Kaul, said.

The top court said it would decide on the next date of hearing the plea of organisation ‘Citizens against Hate’, represented by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, seeking to be made a party to the petition filed by the PUCL. The court will also decide on February 12 whether to seek a report from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the alleged encounter killings in the state. Bhushan said the rights body was “in seisin of some of the (encounter) cases” and its report be called for the adjudication of the plea by the apex court. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, said all norms and procedures were followed by the state administration.

Earlier, the apex court had sought response from the state government on the PIL filed by the NGO, alleging that there were about 1,100 encounters in 2017 in which 49 people were killed and 370 injured. It, however, had not agreed to the submission of lawyer Sanjay Parikh, appearing for PUCL, that a notice be also issued to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as it had already taken note of alleged statements of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on the encounters in the state.

The NGO, in its plea, has referred to news reports quoting the chief minister, his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya and ADG Law and Order Anand Kumar, justifying the encounter killings of criminals in the state. It has sought a probe into the encounters by an independent agency, that is the “Central Bureau of Investigation or a Special Investigation Team comprising police officers of integrity and who have not served in the state of Uttar Pradesh.”

“Direct that investigation be monitored by this Hon’ble Court or by a monitoring committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge,” the plea said. “The monitoring committee should also inquire into the role played by all authorities/persons who directly/indirectly supported the encounter killings by abdicating their legal duties/responsibilities,” it said. The plea said the families of those killed or injured be also granted compensation.

“By this petition, the petitioner is bringing to the notice of this court incidents of massive administrative liquidations taking place in the state of Uttar Pradesh in blatant violation of the rule of law, legal and constitutional protection available to the citizens, in particular, regarding life under Article 21 of the Constitution,” it said. Facts available in the public domain state that over 1,100 encounters have taken place in the past year, wherein 49 people were killed and 370 were injured, the plea claimed.

Quoting the figure provided by the state to the NHRC, it said that 45 persons have died between January 1, 2017, and March 31 last year. It referred to the binding guidelines laid down by the apex court in a judgment delivered on one of the PILs filed by the PUCL and said “each such encounter is required to be investigated on the basis of FIR, followed by a magisterial inquiry and thereafter, a criminal trial in accordance with law”. The chief minister had on November 19, 2017 said that “criminals will be jailed or killed in encounters”, the plea submitted.

This statement of the chief minister was taken cognizance of by the NHRC, it claimed. The plea also quoted the observation of the NHRC which had said that it seemed that “the police personnel in Uttar Pradesh are feeling free, misusing their power in the light of an undeclared endorsement given by the higher ups…”.

“In the present case, the law enforcement machinery has endorsed the acts of police encounters, no fair probe can be expected from them. In the circumstances, it is necessary that the investigation should be handed over to the CBI to be monitored by this Court, in addition to a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to inquire into the role played by the state machinery in the act of commission of police encounters,” it said.

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