The Gauhati high court on December 22 agreed to hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by senior lawyer Arif Jwadder, who claimed that more than 80 police encounters took place in Assam since May, leaving 28 dead and 48 others injured.
The senior lawyer, who earlier lodged a similar complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in his PIL, demanded a CBI probe or constitution of a court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising police officers of other state to probe the “fake encounters”.
“All the victims were unarmed and handcuffed at the time of the encounter. Those people who have been killed or injured were not dreaded criminals,” Jwadder told the media on December 22.
“Above all, this petition (in Gauhati high court) raises the issue of violations of the rule of law and equality before law and equal protection of laws. Police personnel do not have a licence to kill, the whole idea of the CrPC is to apprehend criminals and bring them to justice, not to kill them.”
The PIL said that such encounter killings deprive the victims of the right to personal liberty and life, which cannot be denied except by “procedure established by law”.
“There is no law enabling what come to be known as ‘encounter killings’ and the Assam Police, like any other persons, are bound by the provisions of the CrPC. Failure to apprehend criminals and bring them to justice is a failure of the entire policing system in the state which requires an investigation by this court.”
Jwadder said that the NHRC earlier took cognizance of his complaint and asked for an Action Taken Report (ATR) from the Assam Police.
The PIL said that all the injured or slain people were not militants and hence not trained to use weapons and it is very unlikely that they could use the service revolvers after snatching against the police force that outnumbered them and were heavily armed.
“It cannot be the case that all the alleged accused could snatch a service revolver from a trained police officer whose pistols are normally tied to the waist belt of that officer,” Jwadder said and urged the high court to give direction to the appropriate authority to register cases against the individual police personnel involved in these encounters.
Since Himanta Biswa Sarma became chief minister on May 10, he has emphasised on a “zero tolerance policy” towards crime and criminals, giving the police “full operational independence within the purview of law” to act.
All the opposition political parties, including the Congress, criticised the BJP government for the “killing and injuring of people through encounters”.