'If you accept that situation you don't require the judiciary, the criminal procedure law, the Indian Penal Code or even the Constitution because there is somebody who decides who gets to live and who gets to die.'
On Friday morning, a week after killing eight policemen in an ambush, dreaded gangster Vikas Dubey was killed in a police encounter while he was being brought back to Kanpur from Ujjain where he was arrested on Thursday.
While the police maintain that Dubey tried to escape when the car in the cavalcade overturned, many, including leaders from the Opposition parties and human rights activists, have questioned the police account.
Dubey's death adds to the long list of encounters that the Uttar Pradesh police have carried out since Ajay Singh Bisht's Bharatiya Janata Party government took office in March 2017. According to records, there have been 1,500 police 'encounters' in which 58 alleged criminals have been killed in the state.
Lawyer Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the People's Union for Civil Liberties, had filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that encounters are a gross violation of human rights.
Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Parikh maintains, "There is no exemption which has been provided to the police to kill anybody without the due process of law."
How do you view Vikas Dubey's death in a police encounter?
As far his encounter is concerned, the legal issue, I perceive, is that any encounter which is done, whether fake or genuine, has to be investigated and tried in court. Therefore, for me to say true or false is inconsequential.
Do you think the police's narrative is credible?
I cannot really answer about the police narrative, but as the facts are disclosed, there appears to be a very strong and clear case of conducting an inquiry.
And this inquiry should be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or high court judge, besides an investigation into the case by an independent agency.
After the 16-point guidelines issued by the Supreme Court on police encounters, one felt that the police would not be trigger-happy, but now, after last year's Hyderabad encounter comes the Vikas Dubey encounter.
Do the police not fear the repercussions of encounter killings?
The issue is that the Supreme Court passes many judgments and there are many guidelines and there are directions that need to be followed.
I am talking of the D K Basu judgment (external link).
If it is not followed, then a contempt petition will be filed before the court.
In Uttar Pradesh, a large number of encounters are taking place and the PUCL had filed a case in the apex court as there was a statement by the police officers of UP as well as the UP chief minister that hardened criminals wouldn't be spared.
We filed a petition stating that police encounters were happening in UP in violation of directions by the Supreme Court. That petition is still pending.
Police encounters are not in accordance with law.
When you say there is rule of law, then a person is caught, is tried, evidence is recorded and thereafter he is punished.
In police encounters, you straightway execute a person without any trial being conducted.
In a democracy, and where the rule of law is followed, these things are not permissible.
In your case against the UP state, which has been ongoing since 2018, the Supreme Court observed that PUCL was not well prepared before arguing its case.
Tn an encounter matter, we were on a legal point that the FIR has to be registered in accordance with law and it has to be tried and a magisterial inquiry has to be conducted.
Now the court was asking us to give details of each and every encounter. Giving details of each and every encounter is not possible for anybody as to what happened really.
You can only provide a number of the encounters or give illustrations or something.
The Supreme Court ought to have seen that directions given by themselves were not being followed. That was our limited point -- that there is nothing like an encounter in law.
And there is no exemption which has been provided to the police to kill anybody without the due process of law.
We had found material for that purpose given to us, including reports given by National Human Rights Commission of India; but somehow it was not taken up and thereafter it did not come up though we mentioned the matter.
When I spoke to you in 2018 there was a record of 58 encounter deaths in Uttar Pradesh. Has that number increased in the past two years?
The numbers have increased, but at this moment I don't have the exact numbers.
Every police encounter has more or less the same story. Criminals were running away from police custody, the police chased them and (in self-defence) killed them.
These stories are the same, but the question we are raising is, whether fake encounters or genuine encounters, the truth is police encounters are not permissible by law except in the case of right of private defence, which you have to prove in court.
What is the law and order situation in UP? Has it improved?
If you say by killing people the law and order will improve, it is not correct.
The situation will only improve if people follow the law.
Do police encounters bring about peace in society?
Attaching peace with police encounters is absolutely wrong.
If you start believing that way, then what is the point of registering an FIR at the police station, for instance, in a case of rape or dacoity?
The police can directly kill people as they feel those people are not supposed to live in society.
And this is very dangerous for democracy.
It is not correct to say you want peace and people should be killed because they are bad. It is for the judiciary to see what crimes the criminals have committed.
What is required is expediting the judicial process and trials. That is the need of society, and not this way of police encounters.
In the Hyderabad encounter, the public celebrated when the alleged rapists and murderers were killed by the police.
People react that way, but the law does not behave in the same fashion.
Your thinking may be subjective and biased. The law ultimately brings harmony and peace in society.
The general perception is that human right activists are villains. Even our films highlight this.
In Bollywood films, when a hero is killing the villain in a police encounter, some people clap.
If you accept that situation you don't require the judiciary, the criminal procedure law, the Indian Penal Code or even the Constitution of India because there is somebody who decides who gets to live and who gets to die.
Human life cannot be taken based on the whims of an individual. If we think that way, then we will live in a barbaric society.
The law does not work that way. We are governed by law ultimately.