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U.P. Tops In Encounter Killings And Custodial Deaths

By S.R.Darapuri

30 April, 2010

“This week, I was told to do an encounter,” a police officer told Human Rights Watch (HRW). He was referring to the practice of taking into custody and extra judicially executing an individual, then claiming that the victim died after initiating a shoot- out with police. “I am looking for my target,” he said. “I will eliminate him . .. I fear being put in jail, but if I don't do it, I'll lose my position." This is the confession of an Officer from Uttar Pradesh but it is applicable to any officer in any state of India. This is how Human Rights Watch report titled “Broken System: Dysfunctional, Abuse and Impunity in the Indian Police” starts its narrative. This report was released by HRW in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) on 7th August, 2009. The Repot was earlier released at Banglore on 4th August, 2009.

The above statement of a Sub- Inspector in the HRW report amply illustrates the state of affairs prevailing in the state. This State has won the notoriety of killing the maximum number of suspects in police encounters for the last many years. As per the statistics available during 2006, out of a total of 122 encounters for whole of India, U.P. had the figure of 82. In 2007 out of a total of 95 for whole of India, U.P. had 50 % i.e. 48. In 2008 as against 103 for whole of India U.P. had reached a figure of 41 and in 2009, U.P. attained a figure of 83 which puts the state on the top in encounter killings.

As regards Custodial Deaths according to the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) report on “Torture in India 2009” during the last eight years (from 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2009) an estimated 1,184 persons were killed in police custody in India. The highest number of custodial deaths was in Maharashtra (192) cases followed by Uttar Pradesh (128) and then other states. It was further observed in the report that “These deaths in custody do not however represent the actual number of deaths in police custody in India. A number of custodial death cases taken up by ACHR with the NHRC (National Human Right commission) show that the NHRC was not informed by the police about these custodial deaths. While the NHRC has expressed its anguish against the failure to report custodial deaths but the NHRC’s guidelines on reporting custodial deaths within 24 hours continue to be flouted.” U.P. Police also cannot claim to be exception to it. It is seen that among the crime figures displayed by U.P.Police no such figures are ever given out.

It is seen from the Crime in India 2008 Report released recently by National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) that whereas there were 6015 complaints against U.P. policemen regarding violation of human rights only one case was registered in which three police men were charge sheeted during 2008. Similarly in cases of encounter killings hardly any case was registered and any police man charge sheeted and prosecuted. Only recently in one case of Sonbhadra districts 11 police men have been convicted in a fake encounter case. So police men in U.P. enjoy an enviable immunity from being punished for fake encounters and custodial deaths.

Now it is worth analyzing as to why U.P.Police has reached this state. One of the important reasons for this high handedness is the autocratic reign of Mayawati which is being witnessed daily in police handling of public protests or agitations. She does not tolerate any protest or opposition. Hence police is being used to suppress her opponents. She has virtually shut down any democratic space available for public protest. Secondly there is hardly any outlet for relief against police excesses available in the state. Just for saying there is a Human Rights Cell in the Police department but it is totally subordinate to Director General of Police. Hence no relief can be expected from it. This cell is top heavy with one Additional DG, one Inspector General of Police and one S.P. It functions as a post office between NHRC, State HRC and police. It hardly carries out any independent enquiry.

To deal with complaints of human rights violations an independent agency in the form of State Human Rights Commission has been set up in the state but it is also almost ineffective in giving any relief to the victims of police excesses. It is inadequately staffed having one Chairman, one Member who is a close relation of one politician of the party in power, one Secretary, one Additional DG and one Additional S.P. The post of the Chairman remained vacant for a very long time. One can imagine what relief this Commission can provide to the people of most populous state of India. It is ominous to learn that the Commission has recently taken up the case of encounter killing of Pavan who was killed in an encounter with Lucknow police on 2.2.2010.

Another compounding factor is the allurement of out of turn promotions to the police men who show daring bravery during police encounters. It has been adopted as a policy in the state. During 2009 three Sub-inspectors Civil Police, 2 Constables Civil Police, one Constable Armed Police and 6 Commando Constables were given out of turn promotion. It is alleged by the family members of the victims of these encounters that most of them are fake. That is why there are so many complaints regarding the genuineness of these encounters. This allurement develops a killer instinct in police men who vie with each other to get out of turn promotion. That is responsible for such a large number of encounter killings in U.P. Encounters are arranged with the approval of the seniors because juniors dare not do such dastardly acts of their own.. We cannot forget the horrors of such K.P.S. Gill formula adopted during Punjab terrorism phase.

The criminalization of. politics has affected the performance of U.P police. Rampant corruption is another compounding factor. It is worth mentioning that U.P. has been assessed as alarmingly corrupt state by Transparency International. No doubt a magisterial enquiry is held after every encounter killing and custodial death but hardly any such enquiry has gone against the police version. It is only an independent judicial enquiry which can correctly asses the genuineness of an encounter. The SHRC has very limited capacity to provide succor to the victims of police excesses. Police reforms have been put on back burner by the present government.

There is a silver lining also. Peoples Union for Civil Liberties U.P. is trying to strengthen its cadre and intervene in police excess cases. Last year it enquired into the cases of Shahbaz Ahmad accused of Jaipur blasts and Abu Bashar an accused of Ahmadabad and Hyderabad bomb blasts. PUCL also enquired into the implication of innocent persons in Rita Bahugauna house burning case and got them released on bail. It has also decided to enquire into the Pavan encounter case of Lucknow. PUCL has also protested against the arrest of Seema Azad,its Organisng Secretary who has been branded as a Maoist. A grand protest dharna was also arranged against it. It is high time that civil society and other human rights activists and organizations come forward to protest against police excesses and make the police work within the limits of law.

S.R.Darapuri I.P.S.(Retd) Email: srdarapuri@yahoo.co.in