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CHRI seeks probe into excessive force used by cops to kill in AP, Telangana

CHRI seeks probe into excessive force used by cops to kill in AP, Telangana
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CHRI Seeks Probe Into Excessive Force Used By Cops To Kill in AP, Telangana. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) strongly condemns the killings by police of five undertrials in police custody in Warrangal, Telangana, and of 20 woodcutters in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, which took place on the same day, 7th April, 2015.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) strongly condemns the killings by police of five undertrials in police custody in Warrangal, Telangana, and of 20 woodcutters in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, which took place on the same day, 7th April, 2015. In Warangal, the five men were reported to have been shot dead as they tried to escape police custody while being taken to court in a police vehicle. In Chittoor, the Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force made up of Andhra forest and police officials shot dead 20 suspected red sandalwood smugglers who resisted surrender when the task force allegedly found them cutting down endangered red sandalwood trees.

In both cases, the police have claimed the killings were in self-defence. However, the detailed press coverage throws serious doubts on the veracity of the police claims. News reports state that the five undertrials in Warangal were vastly outnumbered, in a contained space, by their police escorts numbering at least 15; and that most of those killed in Chitoor had bullet marks at the back of their heads. There have been no reports of police personnel suffering serious injuries from either incident, despite the total fatalities on the other side. Both appear to be cases of extrajudicial killings by the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Police.

“There is no dispute that these deaths have occurred at the hands of police. It is imperative that there are prompt and independent criminal investigations into the killings particularly to examine the apparent excessive use of force by the Andhra and Telangana police. These must be initiated immediately so as not to lose valuable evidence, and conducted in a thorough and rigorous manner that meets the ends of substantive justice”, said Maja Daruwala, Director of CHRI.

We note with serious concern the reported statement of the Andhra DGP, JV Ramudu, when asked if the police could have shot the deceased in the legs to avoid such a large number of deaths, “Is there a law that you should shoot on the legs? Don’t ask nonsense questions (sic)”. Having joined the police service every officer becomes part of the machinery for securing constitutional rights of which protection of the right to life is central. The DGP’s alleged statement inspires little confidence. To even suggest a sanction to kill is to permit erosion of civilized and lawful governance.

Accountability processes have been set in motion as the National Human Rights Commission has taken suo moto notice in both cases, and families of the victims are moving court. Accountability must be underpinned by a fully independent investigation. CHRI calls upon the governments and police of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to undertake steps in compliance with guidelines laid down to investigate police encounters in the Supreme Court judgment in PUCL v State of Maharashtra (2014). Where firearms and fatalities have occurred at the hands of the police CHRI urges that none of these legal requirements are avoided and calls for the following: a) an FIR is registered to book all the police personnel involved on charges of murder (Section 302, IPC), b) fair and speedy investigation by the state CID, or a police team from another police station, or the CBI, c) immediate suspension of the implicated personnel pending the investigation, and arrests with no delay, d) preservation of crime scenes, ballistic and forensic evidence, seizure of all weapons, e) effective judicial inquiry, f) no blocks to prosecution, g) full protection must be given to all witnesses.

The state’s obligation to punish extra judicial killing is a corollary of the victim’s right to life and the right to dignity of the victim’s kin. Article 21 of the Constitution is not restricted only to the procedure that must precede deprivation of life or liberty. When life is destroyed, due process must follow by way of investigation, prosecution and penalty to those who destroyed it.

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