In the recent times, it has been observed that a number of alleged #criminals have been killed in #police #encounters in India. Most recently, an infamous gangster, namely, #VikasDubey, was reportedly killed in an encounter by the #UttarPradesh (UP) Special Task Force (STF) on 10-07-2020, when the vehicle of the police convoy in which he was being brought to #Kanpur, overturned and he tried to flee. The gangster along with his accomplices had earlier allegedly killed eight UP police officers in an ambush in Bikru village near Kanpur.
The term ‘#policeencounter’ generally means an extra-judicial killing of suspected criminals by the police, apparently in self-defense. Section 46 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (#CrPC) provides that if a person to be arrested either forcibly resists the police officer’s action to arrest him, or tries to evade such arrest, the said police officer may use all necessary means required to effect the #arrest. However, the police officer cannot cause the death of the person, who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life.
Section 197 (1) of CrPC provides that a #complaint may be made against a public servant, thereby accusing him of the offence committed during the discharge of his official duties, only after obtaining a prior sanction of the Government.
Further, the #SupremeCourt in People’s Union for Civil Liberties & Anr. vs State of Maharashtra & Ors. Passed a Judgment dated 23-09-2014 and made the following observations regarding police encounters:
1- The Apex Court condemned police encounters as it is not recognised by our criminal justice administration system. Although there are genuine circumstances when police officers, while performing their duty, have been attacked and killed. So only in such genuine circumstances, the #policeofficers are allowed to take action to protect themselves.
2- The Supreme Court has further laid down standard #guidelines for thorough investigation in the cases of death and grievous injury caused in police encounters. The important guidelines have been listed below:
i) Police to record tip-offs received about criminal movements or activities in writing or in electronic form.
ii) Police to register FIR regarding death caused in an encounter with the use of firearms and to forward the same to court under Section 157 CrPC.
iii) Senior police officials to conduct independent investigation in such cases.
iv) Magistrate to conduct proper inquiry and send report of the same to Judicial Magistrate.
v) To inform the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) about such incident/encounter. Unless required, NHRC may not be involved for investigation.
vi) To inform the next of kin of the deceased-alleged criminal and the police officer’s family about the incident/encounter.
vii) To initiate disciplinary action against the concerned police officer and to suspend him, in case the evidence shows, use of firearms in the encounter killings.
viii) To follow the scheme laid down under Section 357-A of CrPC in case compensation has to be granted to the victim or his dependents, who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the police encounter.
Further, the Supreme Court has held in the aforesaid case that the said guidelines/norms have to be treated as law declared under Article 141 of the Constitution of India 1950, i.e. the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India and thus, have to be strictly followed in cases of death or grievous injury caused in police encounters.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer