UP cops in the soup as NHRC form panel to probe extrajudicial killings

Gun violence (File) Representational image

The Uttar Pradesh Police is in the dock over alleged encounters taking place in the state after the National Human Rights Commission has constituted a five-member investigating team to enquire into 17 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings.

The commission also issued notices to the chief secretary and the DGP of Uttar Pradesh after taking serious note of the complaints that have landed at its doorstep. The NHRC team will record the statements of affected families, and carry out other necessary examination related to the alleged incidents of encounter deaths in the state, and submit its report within four weeks.

The families of victims of extrajudicial executions, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan and Citizens Against Hate, met NHRC chairperson H.L. Dattu on May 7, and presented a complaint of nine cases of extra judicial killings in the state. These complaints were supported by affidavits by the families of victims, demolishing the police version of alleged “encounters”. In another eight cases, the families were not able to give their statements on affidavits reportedly for fear of threats and intimidation by the police. The complaints, however, highlighted that the alleged police encounters were not ''spontaneous shootouts'' rather instances of ''planned and pre-meditated extra judicial killings''.

UP DGP O.P. Singh has been applauding his police force over the reduced crime rate in his state. Singh has said the gangsters and criminals in Uttar Pradesh are being engaged by the policemen, where there have been incidents of policemen firing at them in self-defence. Singh has claimed that the alleged encounters are a result of the police force going after the criminals who in turn attack the police, prompting the latter to retaliate.

This argument of the state police has been vehemently countered by Prashant Bhushan and Citizens Against Hate who have said in an official statement that “the encounter narrative of the police show a repetition of sequence of events with a strikingly similar pattern followed in each of these alleged encounters. The complaint highlighted similar circumstances in most of the alleged encounter killings like abduction of the victims before the incident.''

The complainants have requested the NHRC to take serious note of these killings, order an immediate impartial investigation in the 17 cases presented before it, and take strict action against the concerned police officials in accordance with the Supreme Court guideline and NHRC guidelines on encounter deaths.

The NHRC, after scrutinising both the complaints and the supporting documents which included FIR, postmortem reports, and general diary entries, issued an order and notice on May 9 to the chief secretary and the DGP of UP. The notice states that documents ''prima-facie show that there may be chances of failure on the part of the state to adhere to the guidelines issued by the apex court and the commission and police authorities exceeding the jurisdiction at the time of alleged encounter killings.'' The Commission also noted that it had taken suo-motu cognizance of the matter as early as November 22 last year and in an order issued to the Yogi Adityanath government had observed that the ''police personnel appear to be feeling free, misusing their powers in the light of an undeclared endorsement given by the higher ups.''