Rights body concerned over shootout deaths in UP

New Delhi, Sep 19
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on Tuesday expressed concerns at the "seeming regularity of encounter deaths" of alleged criminals in Uttar Pradesh.

It said the state police is mandated to guarantee that the Constitutional rights and legal safeguards of all arrested persons are upheld.

In a press release, CHRI said the office of Director General of Police in Uttar Pradesh has released data between March and September this year relating to 420 gunfights across the state's eight zones in a "war" against criminals.

It said about 15 people have been killed, 481 arrests made, and 88 police personnel injured and noted that this "is exceptionally unusual."

"While we recognise the criminal elements the police are up against, the police and political leadership must insist that all policing functions within the law. Without this, we lose the difference between the law and the outlaw," said Devika Prasad, Coordinator, Police Reforms Programme.

The release said the state government must strictly comply with both the Supreme Court's and the National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC) guidelines to investigate the 15 killings.

"There is little information available on the arrests made, besides the scale. The UP Police is mandated to guarantee that the constitutional rights and legal safeguards of all arrested persons are upheld at every stage. It is solely for the courts to decide whether they are innocent or guilty," it said.

The release said that the police have reported that departmental and magisterial inquiries are being conducted after each gunfight.

"However, the state is bound to register a First Information Report and initiate a full criminal investigation into any killing by police in an 'encounter'. CHRI reminds the state government and UP Police that they are accountable for the deaths caused and arrests made," it said.

The CHRI said that guidelines of the Supreme Court given in PUCL vs State of Maharashtra require that any killing in an encounter is independently investigated and no cash or gallantry awards and benefits be given to police personnel for homicide.

It said that NHRC guidelines also mandate that any death resulting from police action is reported with details to the Superintendent of Police within 48 hours, followed by supplementary reports including the post mortem, inquest, magisterial inquiry report and reports on forensics and ballistics experts.

"The reasoning behind this is that the police must always be law abiding and not be tempted into excess use of force, abuse of power, or illegality."

CHRI is an independent, international organisation committed to protecting and promoting human rights in Commonwealth nations.

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