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How Extra-Judicial Execution Has Become The New Normal?

Encounter of the four accused in gang rape and murder case of 26-year old veterinarian in Hyderabad ignited a nation-wide debate on the Indian criminal justice system. The four were suspected and arrested on the basis of CCTV cameras and victim's mobile number. While the people all over the country have rejoiced over the police's action and Telangana police was celebrated what need to be kept in mind is that the matter was only in the investigative stage when the said encounter took place hence the guilt of the four accused can't be ascertained at this point going by the Indian criminal justice system doctrine of “innocent until proven guilty”.

Not only that it is nothing unusual that the police might have framed four people from the backward communities as an answer to constant public demands of justice and outrage that can be felt over the country or might have been an attempt to conceal their own mistake of not having started any search for the girl even after missing of the girl was reported at the police station.
The very recent instance of the same being Ryan international school murder case in which Haryana Police said a bus conductor had confessed to murdering a 2nd grade student in 2017. Whereas, When the case was taken by Central Bureau of Investigation, it said that the conductor had been framed by the police and instead detained9th grade student.

Another interesting aspect of the same is that the Commissioner of Police overseeing the case, VC Sajjanar, in the year 2008 was the Superintendent of Police of Warangal when very identical situation happened as well in the case of acid attack by three men led to the accused being killed by the police after being taken to the scene of the crime in lieu of recovering material evidences and then somehow accused managed to get their hands on a country made gun.

Though the Honourable Supreme Court have laid down various guidelines in case of PUCL v State of Maharashtra that have to be followed in cases of police encounters where civilians have died, one such mandatory requirement is registration of an FIR and submission of the same to the magistrate, and holding an independent investigation by the CID or by a police team from a different police station. Furthermore, u/s 176 CrPC, inquiry must be held by a magistrate and report of the same be sent to a judicial magistrate u/s 190 of CrPC.

While, one might consider such provisions as a safeguard from extra-judicial killings, these provisions have failed to meet its objective. There has been gross violation of these guidelines which when identified includes crime scenes left unexamined, neither the family members of such people are told about such killings nor are the copies of post-mortem reports are provided to the families of the victims. Typically, what happens is that FIR is filed by the Police officer himself that he was attacked by that certain individual and the case is then closed on account of accused being a deceased instead being filed against the police officer.

Another, problem being the powers granted to police by section 46(3) reading along with section 46(2) which talks of how arrest be made and if such person forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or attempts to evade the arrest, such police officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.

As per sub clause 3 of section 46, this section is mainly for dealing with persons accused of offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life and in such cases police has right to cause death of the person while making such arrest however what is much more problematic than the differential treatment is the term ‘accused' used in the section, which means the person is not even proved to be guilty at this point and giving such exorbitant powers to police while dealing with accused is unnecessary and this has in a way provided a blanket to cover such extra-judicial killings done by police regularly.

As per the statistics, largest number of encounters occur in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state of the country. Time and again various organisations of UN has written letters to the government and Supreme court and have tried to shed some light on the matter. However, no such act has been successful till date.

What is required is to bring reforms in such laws which can start from changing the term accused to convicts in section 46(3) of CrPC. Thus, limiting the powers of the police and in case of use of such powers proper reports be sent to the concerned magistrate and failure in the same be penalised. Also, what is required is checking the corruption in the police department. There have been instances where police have taken money from accused persons and have staged fake scenes giving them chance to escape from the custody. Furthermore, many victims have been asked for money to let them go free and failure to give the same have led to killing of these victims.

Reforms in such laws become more important in order to repose faith of citizens in police, the law enforcement authority.

Written By: Divya Mann

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