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Author: Sakshi Priya, III year from Sai Nath University, Ranchi


Extra-judicial killing is an act of violence by law enforcement agencies without judicial authorization for instant justice, which means that the person is killed without a trial, due process, or any legal justification. Nowadays, this inhumane act is gaining popularity in the criminal justice system which evades the general essence of the Constitution and democracy. A country like India, which stands as the largest democracy in the world now needs to answer various questions after the recent encounter of Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf who had been convicted of kidnapping and faced murder and assault charges. Three men posing as journalists attacked Ahmed and his brother while they were answering media questions. Around 180 people in Uttar Pradesh are facing criminal charges that have been killed in Police encounters since 2017. While India has seen a 15% decline in encounter killing cases registered in the six years between 2016-2017, the cases shot up by 69.5% in the last two years. Reports state that India has registered 813 cases of encounter killings in the last six years. Among them, Chhattisgarh recorded the most extrajudicial killing cases at 259, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 110 and Assam with 79.

Certain factors that contribute to these encounters leading to violations of human rights are public and political support through various channels and promotion by lawmakers. Often due to an overload of cases in the court, people assume they won’t get justice soon. The doctrine “Justice delayed is justice denied” comes into the picture and people start promoting these encounters and start Hero- worshipping policemen. This defeats the purpose of having laws and law enforcement infrastructure. Supreme Court (SC) has expressed its views after this recent incident in Uttar Pradesh, stating that the right to life as a Fundamental Right is enshrined in the Constitution and these encounters are a violation of this right.

Police and human rights are closely connected, as police officers are responsible for upholding and protecting the human rights of all individuals they come into contact with. Police officers have the power and authority to use force and detain individuals, and must do so in a way that respects their human rights. Right to Life and Personal Liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the constitution, is non-negotiable and applicable to everyone. It is the responsibility of the police to follow the Constitution and protect the Right to Life of every individual, regardless of innocence or guilt.

Famous cases of extrajudicial killings include:

A. Mathura Rape case -in this case a young orphan girl was raped by two policemen in police custody, who was later acquitted by the Supreme Court.

B. Bhagalpur Blinding Case -in this case, the incident was reported by around 31 victims. The police officers involved in this case were convicted by the court. This also became the first-ever case in which granting monetary compensation to the victim was considered by the Supreme Court.

C. In the case of D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal(1996), the apex court ruled that custodial death violated the dignity and fundamental rights of any human being, and issued several guidelines for the police on how to handle or interrogate the suspected person.

D. One of the most famous cases of extrajudicial killing is the case of Priyanka Reddy, 2019 in which the accused was killed by policemen in an encounter on the spot where the body of the victim was recovered.

E. In the recent case of Vikas Dubey vs, The state of U.P (2020) a wanted criminal Vikas Dubey was killed in an encounter by the U.P Police and no evidence was found against the policemen.

In March 1997, the NHRC under the guidelines of Justice M. N. Venkatahchaliah provided guidelines for police to register information about encounter deaths, and allow and grant compensation to the deceased's family in case of police officers being convicted for Culpable homicide.

  1. Registration of an FIR is mandatory, along with provisions for a magisterial inquiry.

  2. Keeping records of intelligence inputs either in physical or digital form.

  3. An investigation is to be carried out by an independent agency, such as the CID, to ensure a fair investigation.

  4. These requirements must be observed in all cases of death and grievous injury in police encounters and should be incorporated under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.

These guidelines were then amended in the year 2010 including a magisterial inquiry, and reporting all death cases to the NHRC within 48 hours by the Senior Superintendent of Police or Superintendent of Police. After three months, a second report must be sent with the postmortem report, inquest report, and inquiry findings.

Section 96 of the Indian Penal Code and section 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code empower a police officer to use extra force in their act of self-defense that may lead to the death of the accused, but there is no provision related to extra-judicial killing in India specifically targeting the way of killing and encountering accused for these purposes. In the case of the People's Union for Civil Liberties and another versus the State of Maharashtra and others (2014), the honorable Supreme Court issued a slew of guidelines, including that whenever police are in knowledge of criminal movements or activities pertaining to the commission of the grave criminal offense, it shall be reduced into writing preferably in case of a diary or in some electronic form.

The Second Administrative Reform Commission which was established by the Government of India in the year 1957 to review the administrative laws in the country played an important role by giving recommendations regarding police encounters. It stated that the police should work without political influence and more importantly limited to professional efficiency without interrogating the due process of law. Police officers must uphold the human rights of all individuals they encounter, and must work to build trust and positive relationships with the communities they serve. This requires ongoing training, accountability, and a commitment to fairness and justice for all.


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