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Extra-Judicial Killings


Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has expressed its views on Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK) in India, after an Encounter in Uttar Pradesh, stating that the right to life as a Fundamental Right enshrined in the Constitution and EJKs are a violation of this right.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Extra Judicial Killing?
  2. Rights of Police and the Status of Extra Judicial Killings in India
  3. Causes of Extra Judicial Killings
  4. Guidelines Related to Encounters in India:

What is Extra Judicial Killing?

  • Extra judicial killing is the act of killing a person by the state or its agents without any legal or judicial proceedings.
  • This means that the person is killed without a trial, due process, or any legal justification.
  • Extra judicial killing can take various forms, including extrajudicial executions, summary executions, and enforced disappearances.
  • These acts are illegal and violate human rights and the rule of law.
  • Extra judicial killings are often carried out by law enforcement agencies or security forces in the name of maintaining law and order or combating terrorism.
Constitutional Provisions
  • Supremacy of Constitution: The Constitution of India intends that the country should be governed by the rule of law. This means that the Constitution is the supreme power, and the legislative and executive branches derive their authority from it.
  • Right to Life and Personal Liberty: The Constitution guarantees the Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21, which is applicable to every person, and is considered non-negotiable.
  • Responsibility of Police: It is the responsibility of the police to follow the Constitution and protect the Right to Life of every individual, regardless of their guilt or innocence. This means that they must ensure that any actions they take are lawful and do not violate the fundamental rights of citizens.
  • Applicability to Everyone: The Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 is applicable to every person within the territory of India, including citizens, non-citizens, and foreigners. It cannot be suspended or restricted except by the procedure established by law.

Rights of Police and the Status of Extra Judicial Killings in India

  • Use of Force: The police have the right to use force, including lethal force, in self-defense or to maintain peace and order. This right is given to them under the law.
  • Right to Self-Defense: Every person has the right to self-defense under Section-96 of the Indian Penal Code. However, the use of force by the police must be proportional and necessary, and they should avoid excessive use of force.
  • Use of Force to Arrest: Section-46 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows the police to use force, including lethal force, to arrest someone accused of a serious crime. However, the use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the gravity of the offense.
  • Status of Extra Judicial Killings in India: India has seen a decline of 15% in the number of encounter killing cases registered between 2016-’17 and 2021-’22, but there has been a 69.5% increase in the last two years.
  • Number of Cases: In the last six years, India has registered 813 cases of encounter killings, with Chhattisgarh recording the most cases at 259, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 110 and Assam with 79.

Causes of Extra Judicial Killings

  • Lack of Faith in the Judicial System: Some people support extra judicial killings because they believe that the court system won’t provide timely justice. This public support makes the police bolder, leading to an increase in such killings.
  • Political Pressure: Many political leaders believe that more encounters will serve as their achievement in maintaining law and order in the state. This political pressure may lead to an increase in extra judicial killings.
  • Belief in Violence and Torture: Some police officials believe that using violence and torture is the only way to control crime and create a sense of fear among potential criminals. This belief may lead to excessive use of force and extra judicial killings.
  • Glorification of Violence: Extra judicial killings are often glorified by the public and media, portraying the police officers involved as heroes who are cleaning up society. This glorification creates a positive image of the police officers involved and may lead to an increase in such killings.
  • Low Conviction Rates: The police may not have enough resources to conduct thorough investigations, leading to low conviction rates. Encounters are seen as an easy way for the police to create a positive image of maintaining law and order in the area.

Guidelines Related to Encounters in India:

Supreme Court:
  • In 2014, the SC issued guidelines for investigating police encounters in cases of death in the case of “People’s Union for Civil Liberties v State of Maharashtra.”
  • The guidelines include mandatory registration of an FIR and a magisterial inquiry, involving the next of kin of the deceased in the inquiry, keeping written records of intelligence inputs, and having an independent agency like the CID investigate to ensure a fair and impartial investigation.
  • Information about the incident must be sent to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) or the State Human Rights Commission, although the NHRC’s involvement is not necessary unless there is serious doubt about independent and impartial investigation.
  • These guidelines must be strictly followed in all cases of death and grievous injury in police encounters and should be treated as law declared under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.
  • In 1997, the NHRC provided guidelines for police to register information about encounter deaths, allow independent investigation by the State CID, and grant compensation to the deceased’s dependents in case of police officers being convicted.
  • In 2010, these guidelines were amended to include registering an FIR, conducting 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 enquiry findings.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024