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Gauhati HC seeks details about deaths in Assam police encounters

 
Guwahati, Jan 3 (IANS) The Gauhati High Court on Monday sought detailed information and government action about the alleged human rights violations in Assam on account of deaths in police encounters since May last year.

Hearing a PIL on the matter, a division bench of Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Soumitra Saikia asked Advocate General Devajit Lon Saikia to apprise the court about the deaths of people in police encounters and fixed the next date of hearing on January 11.

The PIL was filed by lawyer Arif Jwadder, who, referring to the media reports, claimed that more than 80 police encounters took place in Assam since May, leaving 28 people dead and 48 others injured.

Referring to the last year's July 26 Assam-Mizoram border clash, the Advocate General said that six Assam policemen were killed in the incident but nobody is talking about their human rights violation, but the court said that the incident was totally a different issue as it involved a dispute between two neighbouring states.

Appearing for the petitioner, senior lawyer Indira Jaising argued that the PIL raised the issue of public importance involving the rule of law in Assam. She submitted that in view of the gravity of the matter, the State Human Rights Commission also took suo motu cognizance of the encounter matter but no substantive progress has been made so far in the probe into the 'fake encounter' cases.

Jwadder, 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 officials 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," he said.

"Above all, this petition 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 revolvers after snatching against the police force that outnumbered them and were heavily armed.

Jwadder also 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.

The deaths of 28 people in many encounters included militants, wanted criminals, anti socials involved in various crimes, drug peddlers, dacoits, arms smugglers, and cattle thieves.

--IANS
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