A public interest litigation has been filed in the Gauhati High Court seeking an independent probe under the supervision of the High Court into the encounter killings in Assam.
Arif Md. Yeasin Jwadder, the petitioner, who is a Delhi-based advocate and an inhabitant of Assam, has also sought registration of First Information Reports (FIRs) into the killings of alleged criminals under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Besides, he seeks the constitution of Human Rights Courts in the state as mandated under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
In his petition, Jwadder has argued that since May 2021 when the state government led by new Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma came to be formed,Assam police have been on an “encounter spree”, shooting and killing alleged accused with no criminal records. “The modus operandi for every such encounter has been the same, in which the alleged accused tries to flee from the police custody, snatching a service revolver of the police official and for self defence, the police officer retaliates and shoots”, the petition reads.
Jwadder has contended that as per media reports, more than 80 police encounters have taken place since May this year, out of which 28 people have been killed and 48 injured in such “fake encounters”. All the victims were unarmed and handcuffed at the time of the encounters. He submits that the encounter killings raise the issue of violations of the rule of law ,and equality before law and equal protection of laws.
Police personnel, Jwadder argues, do not have a licence to kill, as the whole idea of the Code of the Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is to apprehend criminals and bring them to justice, not to kill them. Such encounter killings deprive the victims of the right to personal liberty and life, which cannot be denied except by “procedure established by law”, claims the petition.
“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/examination by this Hon’ble Court”, Jwadder states in his plea.
Earlier this year, Jwadder had complained to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), urging it to take cognizance and inquire into the fake encounters. The complaint was acknowledged and diarized on July 16, 2021, but no action was taken by NHRC. Only after the petitioner filed an application on August 16, 2021, under the Right to Information Act, 2005 seeking information on the action taken on his email complaint, NHRC took cognizance of the complaint and asked for an Action Taken Report (ATR) from the Assam Police on September 14, 2021. On the other hand, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC), according to media reports, had taken suo motu cognizance of the fake encounters and had sent notice to the Assam Home Department for a response, giving time till August 17, 2021, which the Assam government failed to adhere to. “The Commission instead of taking coercive action extended the deadline for the response. The AHRC sent the notice to the Assam government on July 12, 2021, i.e., two days after the petitioner sent the complaint to the NHRC. On November 29, 2021, NHRC transferred the complaint of the petitioner to the AHRC in terms of sections 36(1) & 13(6) of the Protection of Human Rights Act stating that the AHRC took cognizance of the fake encounters prior to the NHRC”, the petition reads.
Jwadder has alleged that neither the NHRC nor the AHRC has taken any concrete action on the fake encounters. Both the commissions have failed to discharge their statutory function under the Protection of Human Rights Act, and the Assam police continues with its encounters killing people.