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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

PUCL-PUDR report challenges 'encounter' theory

New Delhi: The Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) released a report on the encounter killings in Delhi on November 1, a day before the anniversary of Ansal Plaza shoot-outs.

The report, "Close Encounters: A Report on Police shootouts in Delhi" while stating the killing of two businessmen by Delhi police in 1997 in broad day light in Connaught Place said that such deaths have increased over the past few years. The police planted some guns in their hands after they were killed to justify their murders. The case was later presented as a case of "mistaken identity" because the cops were caught out in their attempts.

The specialised units dealing with organised crime and terrorism carry out encounters in Delhi. The attempts to get information about the role of certain departments (like special cell) by the PUCL in policing met with stoic silence from the top brass, said the report.

In early 90s, encounters in Delhi meant swift promotion and media accolades. These factors became to some extent responsible for bringing shams and ignominy to the city police force. The Connaught Place encounter was the only case in which involved police officers were charged with murder.

The encounters which were confined to the insurgency-infested regions of the north-east and Kashmir in 90s have now become common in many cities. The report cited another report which claimed that in Mumbai alone 600 ‘criminals’ had been killed in such encounters between 1998 and 2004. Most of these killings were carried out by Mumbai police’s crime branch. 

The report talks about other encounter death cases as that of Abu Shamal, Upender, Abu Bilal and Abu Zabiullah and Amit Shokeen. The killing of the two persons, allegedly Pakistanis, at Ansal Plaza, south Delhi is also highlighted in the report.

The PUCL and PUDR report calls such deaths illegal and demands that the guilty policemen should be charged with murder. The encounter killings were "pre-mediated " because they were not accidental results of torture instead were summary killings by the state" as a "well armed police was positioned to specifically kill the accused". No investigation has ever been carried out to determine the facts surrounding these "unnatural deaths", the report said. 

The police violate the guidelines of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)and intimidate witnesses and their family members. The investigation into the Millennium Park encounter killings revealed the gross and unethical tactics employed by the police. 

The report highlighted the importance of verifying police version and emphasised the need to check the "lawless powers" of the police. Whenever the police kills someone in an ‘encounter’ its version of events remains unverified. Not only this, the police force is congratulated for its success in killing someone in an ‘encounter’.

The police admit off the record that sometimes it adopts extra-judicial methods to kill some criminals because of lack of evidence against them, and fear among witnesses to depose against them, the report said.

But when the Mumbai police got entangled into the Telgi scam, many ‘encounter specialists’ had to be shunted out from the department. The Special Task Force of UP is also accused of carrying out ‘encounters’ and eliminating ‘dreaded’ criminals. 

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