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SCI rules for independent probe into encounter killings; Punjab cases to be acid test for impact

September 24, 2014 | By

New Delhi/ Chandigarh: The Supreme Court of India (SCI), on Sept. 23, passed directions that each police encounter resulting in death should be thoroughly investigated by an investigative agency. The directions came in an order passed on a plea by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The SCI ruled that that there should be an investigation by an independent agency like the Crime Investigation Department in encounter cases.

In 2009, the AP High Court had ruled that every police officer participating in encounters would be booked under IPC Section 302 (Murder) and investigations would be carried out. But the HC order had been stayed by the SC.

On Sept. 23 (2014), the SC itself ruled that in cases of police encounters there should be an investigation by an independent agency.

Reactions over the decision:

The decision is being widely welcomed by the human rights bodies. In a written statement sent to the Sikh Siyasat News (SSN), international human rights body – Amnesty International India – says SCI judgement on police encounters would strengthen safeguards against fake encounters.

“Authorities must also repeal laws which enable fake encounters, like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and ensure that legal barriers to prosecuting security forces in cases of fake encounters are removed. Effective victim and witness protection programmes must be established to ensure that investigations are not compromised. State governments like those of Manipur, which have seen a number of fake encounters, must immediately take steps to ensure independent and impartial investigations into all allegations” says Amnesty International India.

As per media reports certain sections of police officials have expressed their ‘displeasure’ over the verdict. Police argument is that the order was misplaced and ignored the challenges faced by the police in combating (so-labeled) terrorist forces. However, some police sections have also welcomed the decision.

SCI judgment on Fake Encounters and the Punjab Case:

Surjit Singh SI admits fake encounters in Punjab

Surjit Singh SI admits fake encounters in Punjab

Punjab witnessed widespread human rights abuses by Punjab police and other Indian security forces during post-1984 to mid-1990s period. Enforced Disappearances, custodial torture, extra-judicial killings and fake encounters had turned common policing practice in Punjab during that period. The culprits, who killed hundreds of Sikhs in fake encounters are enjoying top positions in police department.

In December 2011 the Supreme Court of India (SCI) set-aside CBI probe implicating Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini in an enforced disappearance case on technical grounds. The SCI also suffered failure to take suo-moto notice of the matter related to enforced disappearance, custodial torture and extra-judicial killing of three persons.

In June 2013, a Tarn Taran cop (SI Surjit Singh) disclosed that he was witness to more than 83 fake police encounters. He also named certain senior police officials as responsible for these fake encounters. The Punjab and Haryana High Court turned down his plea for security while totally turning blind eye to the seriousness of matter raised by him.

In another case the High Court condemned Sawant Singh Manak, a whistle-blower, with fine while turning down his plea seeking independent probe into fake encounters he had witnessed during his police job.

Many senior police officials, including Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini are facing charges of murder.

The role of Indian judiciary in these cases was very discouraging. While talking to Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) over the role played by Punjab and Haryana High Court in these matters, senior Advocate R. S. Bains said that the passive role of High Court was also responsible for mass abuse of human rights in Punjab. “Had the High Court played it’s part, such abuses could not have happened” he said.

While the case of Satwant Singh Manak, besides some other matters, is still pending before the Supreme Court of India it is to be seen that if the SCI would take similar stance for fake encounter cases in Punjab? The Punjab cases would be like acid-test for the impact of SCI ruling.





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