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Law applies to State too

Law applies to State too
Highlights

The encounters in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have raised many legal questions and political hackles. The difference in the profile of the victims resulted in different response.

Such encounter acts even if they are aimed at dangerous criminals erode the legitimacy of institutions

The encounters in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have raised many legal questions and political hackles. The difference in the profile of the victims resulted in different response. The encounter in Seshachalam forests invited sharp and universal condemnation, as the victims were helpless labourers. The administration that failed to contain the red sanders smugglers and their political patrons used their force on labourers. The so-called encounter raises many uncomfortable questions for the state police.

In the case of Viquaruddin encounter the victim is a dreaded terrorist thus the response was relatively muted. But, even this encounter led to a lot of suspicion. The loopholes in the legal system and the inordinate delay in our criminal justice system make people frustrated. This genuine frustration gives legitimacy, in the eyes of people, to unlawful actions by the police. But, anyone who believes in the Rule of Law wants such terrorists to be punished in the most stringent manner through due course of law rather than extra judicial killings.

Such acts even if they are aimed at dangerous criminals erode the legitimacy of institutions. Article 21 of the Constitution provides “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” The Supreme Court in Om Prakash (Om Prakash and Ors. v. State of Jharkhand through the Secretary, Department of Home, Ranchi-1 and Anr.; [(2012) observed: “It is not the duty of the police officers to kill the accused merely because he is a dreaded criminal. Undoubtedly, the police have to arrest the accused and put them up for trial.

This Court has repeatedly admonished trigger-happy police personnel, who liquidate criminals and project the incident as an encounter. Such killings must be deprecated. They are not recognised as legal by our criminal justice administration system. They amount to State-sponsored terrorism”. But, one cannot be oblivious of the fact that there are cases where the police, who are performing their duty, are attacked and killed. Police in India has to perform a difficult and delicate task, particularly while dealing with hardcore criminals like terrorists and smugglers.

But they should be dealt with by the police in an efficient and effective manner so as to bring them to justice by following rule of law. The United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers (which includes all officers of the law, who exercise police powers) lays down that in the performance of duties, Law Enforcement Officers shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold human rights of all persons.Thus the governments should conduct impartial enquiry into these encounters as per the apex court guidelines to establish the truth behind the claims of an encounter. Civil society should not react emotionally while dealing with questions of rule of law.

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