May 17, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
New Delhi/ Chandigarh: India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has ordered a fact-finding inquiry into 17 cases of “encounter killings” (extra-judicial killings) in Uttar Pradesh and called for the report to be placed before it within four weeks.
It is learnt that the commission has ordered this inquiry on a complaint filed by human rights group called “Citizens Against Hate”. The group, represented by Advocate Prashant Bhushan had presented nine cases of encounter killings in Uttar Pradesh. The rights body had presented affidavits by the victims’ families that went against the police version of “encounters”. The complaint also covered eight cases where families were not able to give their statements on affidavits for fear of threats and intimidation by the police.
As India’s National Human Rights Commissions lacks any independent investigation mechanism the investigation of the complaints against the police force is handed over to the police itself. The NHRC has directed a team of five members to be constituted forthwith comprising “one SSP, two DSPs and two Inspectors to make the fact-finding enquiry of all the 17 cases where encounter killings had taken place by recording the statements of affected families and other necessary examination relating to the incident of encounter deaths and to submit the report within four weeks”.
As per reports, the NHRC has also called for mobile phone call records of the deceased and the police personnel involved in the encounters, the logbooks, details of the vehicles used etc.
The NHRC took note of the similar pattern followed in each of these killings where the victims were abducted before being killed.
The complainant group had pointed that since the current government came to power in Uttar Pradesh, around 1,200 encounters have taken place in UP and many victim families harassed and victimised by police when they filed police complaints against those “brutal extra-judicial killings”.
A report in Live Law India states that “the commission after considering the facts stated in the news report presented before it observed that ‘the police personnel in the state of Uttar Pradesh appears to be feeling free, misusing their powers in the light of an undeclared endorsement given by the higher-ups. It further appears that they are using their privileges / legal authority to settle scores with the people which in a civilized society, where rule of law is fundamental edifies cannot be accepted. The police force is to protect the people and this kind of alleged encounter killings would send a wrong message to the society by creating an atmosphere of fear which is not the correct way to deal with the crime or law and order as the case may be’.”
NHRC’s failure in Punjab Extra-Judicial Killings Case
India’s National Human Rights Commission has a history of failure to address the issue of blind impunity to state forces where such forces practise encounter killings as a state policy.
In case of staged encounter killings, enforced disappearances and secret cremations in Punjab (during 1980s-90s) the NHRC had failed to nail the culprits. After holding long hearings the NHRC had ordered compensation to the family members of 2097 persons (Sikhs) extrajudicially killed by state forces for “disrespect of dead bodies” due to secret cremations but did not order any action for such killings as such.
While participating in a two days hearing of Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) at Amritsar in April 2017 Justice (retd.) A K Ganguly, a former judge of Supreme Court of India, had observed that the NHRC had failed to perform its duty in Punjab disappearances cases and it had turned blind eye to such a clear case of brutal abuse of human rights by state forces.