ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lives of Others, and Deaths

Social and political approval for fake police encounter killings must end.

The ruling of the Supreme Court on the petition regarding 99 police encounters in Mumbai which claimed the lives of 135 persons between 1995 and 1997 has again put the spotlight on a controversial aspect of the criminal justice system. No region in the country has been free from extrajudicial killings of alleged terrorists, insurgents and criminals by the police. "The killings in police encounters affect the credibility of the rule of law and the administration of the criminal justice system" the Court noted in its order on the petition filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and added that it was unfortunate that India did not have structured guidelines and procedures to investigate such deaths. It then proceeded to put in place such guidelines and procedures. These have been hailed but also criticised for not doing enough to tackle the phenomenon of "encounter killings" - a practice that has been shown, time and again, to be in open contravention of the law.

The Supreme Court has now ordered that the police need to record in written or electronic form any tip-off or "intelligence" they receive about criminal activities. If, while pursuing such a tip-off, an encounter with the alleged criminal takes place and he/she is killed, a first information report (FIR) will have to be registered and forwarded to the court under Section 157 of the Criminal Procedure Code immediately. Incidentally, Sections 156 to 158 lay down the procedure to be followed by the police on receipt of information relating to the commission of a cognisable offence and provide for the submission of reports of such information to a magistrate.

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