'Tomorrow if a dictator says that he wants to clean society of certain elements, then that cannot be done.'
'This cannot happen in a democracy.'
In a year of the Ajay Singh Bisht government in Uttar Pradesh, the state has witnessed 1,500 police 'encounters' in which 58 criminals have been killed.
On July 2, the Supreme Court sought a reply from the UP government on the issue of police 'encounter' killings after lawyer Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the People's Union for Civil Liberties, pointed out that gross human rights violations were being carried out through these killings.
"Police 'encounters' are not permissible in a democracy. You cannot eliminate someone just by saying society will be happy," Parikh tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
What does your PIL (public interest litigation) in the Supreme Court seek?
The People's Union for Civil Liberties filed this PIL on police 'encounter' deaths in Uttar Pradesh. In 2013, the Supreme Court had issued guidelines regarding police 'encounter' deaths.
Currently, 1,500 'encounters' have taken place in Uttar Pradesh in which 58 people have died.
Police 'encounters' are illegal and unconstitutional.
More importantly, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh said that criminals will either be killed or be in jail.
The National Human Rights Commission demanded an explanation from him. We demanded an independent inquiry in police 'encounter' cases. A retired judge must conduct the inquiry on such police 'encounter' cases.
What does the law state on police encounter killings?
There is no police 'encounter' written in the law.
According to the law, if a crime has been perpetrated, then an FIR (First Information Report) is lodged, an investigation takes place, a trial is conducted and the court gives the punishment.
In some situations, if a criminal has fired upon the police, then the police, in self-defence, can retaliate.
But the authority was being misused and therefore, the NHRC issued guidelines on the same.
Ultimately in 2013, the Supreme Court said that in police 'encounters', an FIR will be registered and it will be treated as a case of murder.
There will be a proper investigation on 'encounter' killings and that the police station under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred in won't carry out the probe; the inquiry will be done by some other police station.
How many such investigations have been launched in Uttar Pradesh after the 58 police 'encounter' killings?
It is difficult to have an independent investigation particularly after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Ajay Singh Bisht) says that those police officers who are involved in police 'encounters' will be given awards and promotions.
A fair investigation cannot take place under such circumstances.
And it is not in the public domain as to how many FIRs had been filed (against policemen) in those police encounter killings.
It is a scary situation. The NHRC said in its press release that selective 'encounters' are taking place and it is affecting the rule of law.
What do you mean by 'selective encounters'?
The NHRC has used this term. There will be a proper investigation and only then we will come to know.
The Bharatiya Janata Party won the 2017 assembly election, saying it would bring law and order in Uttar Pradesh, which it claimed was missing during Samajwadi Party rule. So the CM has to deliver, doesn't he?
The Constitution and law do not permit police 'encounter' killings.
If that is permitted, then the entire process of investigation means nothing.
Tomorrow if there is a crime, then there is no need for law; just eliminate the criminal right there.
Why do you need laws then? There is no need for a trial etc.
You cannot say who will wait for 10 years for the trial. Just eliminate the person.
This cannot be done.
And if this is done by the head of institutions then it is the death of democracy, the rule of law and Constitutional norms.
This is like a genocide and dictatorship.
Tomorrow if a dictator says that he wants to clean society of certain elements, then that cannot be done. This cannot happen in a democracy.
But the public holds the view that gangsters get bail easily when they are caught, so it is easier to just eliminate them.
This is shown in movies too and people think criminals get bail easily.
For that, we have to initiate judicial reforms. Many times you find out that the investigation done by the police officer is very weak.
There are many cases in which innocent people get caught and criminals go scot free.
In the early 1990s, Maharashtra's then home minister Gopinath Munde had given a free run to the Mumbai police to eliminate gangsters.
If I am not mistaken, almost 500 gangsters died during that period. Mumbai today is rid of gangsters and people are happy.
Society can have a different perception, but the law does not permit that.
I remember the Bombay high court had condemned these police 'encounters'. The PUCL had filed a petition and from this Bombay case, the Supreme Court gave guidelines that were set in 2013 (regarding police 'encounter).
But people have benefited because these gangsters and extortionists were eliminated.
One does not know until someone does an investigation how these gangsters became so strong in Mumbai.
The question is simple: Whatever the reason, you cannot sacrifice Constitutional values and laws.
We have to strengthen our system of doing investigations, police reforms need to be brought in and quick justice needs to be delivered so that the criminals get punished.
Nobody is saying that the criminals must not be punished.
SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) members were killed in an encounter in 2016, but the policemen went scot free after investigation. There are very few cases where policemen have been convicted after an inquiry. What is the point of fighting?
If you keep quiet, then nothing will be done.
You cannot say that what is the point of fighting. The law has to prevail.
Again, the investigation (of such 'encounters') is done by police officers, only then all these results come out.
Therefore, we have said that bring in the NHRC and state human right commissions.
We need reforms in a lot of places, but police 'encounters' cannot be an answer.
Police 'encounters' are not permissible in a democracy. You cannot eliminate someone just by saying society will be happy.
Is there any democracy where police 'encounters' do not happen?
No democracy permits police 'encounter' killings.
The (Supreme Court) judgment of 2013 mentions other countries on what they do.
One can understand police 'encounters' taking place in countries where lynching is done (by the law) and that is barbaric.