Making Encounters Transparent
The rule of law has received a massive boost in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 16-point guidelines for investigation into encounter killings. While it is well recognized that maintaining law and order and combating crime is a delicate task, it is also a painful reality that the police role in the alleged encounters with criminals, militants and terrorists has not always been above board. Promotions and gallantry awards for the personnel involved in such encounters only seek to suppress the element of highhandedness, if any, in such incidents. In extreme cases, even the criminals in uniform get rewarded. Hyped up publicity serves to hinder or cover up the reprehensible role of those meant to comply with the rules in the statute book.
The apex court has put a firm cap on immediate celebration of such incident which in several cases have proved to be cold-blooded murder of innocents as well as criminals. If rule of law has to retain its credibility and carry conviction with people, there must be scope for such incidents to be seen transparently. Out of turn promotions and conferment of awards could wait till investigations reveal their veracity beyond reasonable doubt. It will discourage the tendency to claim credit for stage-managed encounters when the killings were premeditated, as has been witnessed in umpteen cases.
The court has also laid down that intelligence tip-offs should be brought to record and the probe should be headed by police and investigative personnel from another police station. It also makes it mandatory for the State Police chiefs to table the reports of encounter deaths before the State Human Rights Commissions every six months.
Hindsight reveals that personnel lauded as ‘encounter specialists’ were booked for extortions later; intelligence tip-offs in Ishrat Jahan case turned out to be mere figments of imagination and ordinary criminals and activists were eliminated under the garb of combating Naxalism. The PIL preferred before the Supreme Court had itself questioned the genuineness of 99 encounters resulting in death of about 135 persons between 1995 and 1997.