Assam lawyer moves NHRC seeking an inquiry into 'fake encounters'
A lawyer from Assam has moved the National Human Rights Commission seeking an inquiry into all “fake encounters” that have taken place in the state since May.
Arif Jwadder, who moved the NHRC on Saturday, in his email complaint to the commission’s chairperson, citing media reports, alleged: “Assam police is on (an) encounter spree! Since the new government took office in the state there have been fake encounters wherein alleged small-time criminals are being shot and the reason cited for such encounters are that the alleged criminals tried to flee from the police custody (by) snatching pistols.”
Since such police action “deny” the rights of the alleged criminal to a “fair trial”, Arif requested the NHRC take cognisance of the matter and institute an inquiry against all such “fake encounters” which have taken place since May 2021.
The BJP-led alliance was re-elected on May 10 for a second straight term.
Arif has cited 10 cases in his complaint and that the “people at the receiving end” were mostly “alleged drug dealers, alleged cattle dealers”.
He has referred to chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s remark at the conference of officers-in-charge of all police stations in the state “that police should shoot at alleged criminals in the legs, which is permitted by law”.
Addressing the conference here on July 6, Sarma had backed police action, saying “firing” at criminals in self-defence or while in chase should be a “pattern”. “There is criticism of policemen shooting accused/criminals who tried to flee or harm others in the recent past. Law allows to shoot them in the leg. If this is the pattern, let it remain so to send the right message,” Sarma had said.
Sarma’s statement was condemned by the Opposition, including the Congress and the Raijor Dal.
Arif has also raised questions about the police’s ability to handle the accused because they “are/were not militants and hence not trained to use pistols and it is very unlikely that they could use the pistols after snatching against the police force that were outnumbered and heavily armed”.
Arif told The Telegraph on Sunday: “It also raises questions about the standard operating procedures (SOP) followed by the police while dealing with accused. The police should have become more alert after four-five such incidents but there have been more than 20 incidents, two taking place in the past 24 hours. It cannot be believed that all alleged petty criminals could snatch a pistol from a trained police officer whose pistols/guns are normally tied to a rope to the waist belt of that officer.”
Both the Congress and Raijor Dal have expressed concern over the developments.
Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia, while condemning the developments, said the chief minister wants to turn Assam police into “trigger- happy cops” which is against the Constitution as the “right to live” is guaranteed under Article 21.
“The Supreme Court mentions six special conditions under which this right is denied, exclusively for self-defence purposes. If the police, due to their own inefficiency, let a criminal escape when under custody and then shoots him, it is against the law. I appeal to the police officials not to be party to such unconstitutional activities. I also ask government officials not to fall prey to political instigation and indulge in activities contrary to the Constitution and democracy,” Saikia said.
Raijor Dal president and Sivasagar MLA Akhil Gogoi said such developments were disturbing.
“These are signs of our state moving towards a dictatorial regime. This has sparked concern... Today they are firing at an accused but what is the guarantee they will not fire at political opponents in future? This should be stopped,” Akhil said.
The issue is likely to figure in the Assembly session starting from Monday.
Though the fate of Arif’s prayer is awaited, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports on the police firing leading to the death of 12 militants/criminals/accused and injury to five persons since May and directed the principal secretary (home and political) to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the firing and submit a report within a month. In its July 7 directive, the AHRC said it had to order the probe “considering the gravity of the reported incidents”.