Now-a-days, Encounters (i.e. extrajudicial killings by police allegedly done in self-defense) have become a handy tool of justice with UP’s Police. They are not only getting protection under law for the alleged killings, but also get admired and supported by both the government and the citizens. Most recently, UP police once again became ‘Hero of the Public’ with the encounter done in UP’s Chitrakoot jail.
The police version says that on May 14, an inmate of Chitrakoot jail named Anshul Dixit take out a pistol and shot dead his two fellow inmates namely western UP gangster Mukim Kala and eastern UP don Merazuddin.He also held five other inmates as hostages. But then, DIG Jails JN Pandey reached the spot and warned the alleged accused. When Dixit refused to free the hostages and tried to shoot them, the police started open firing in which the accused was shot dead. These alleged facts may seem to a storyline of some action movie, but it is a real example of UP’s Police ‘Thok Do’ policy. And this is not only a heroic encounter done by UP Police rather there are many more like the spotlight of 2020- Vikas Dubey Encounter.
UP & ITS “THOK DO” POLICY
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state is facing worst crime statistics as per the data. In order to tackle the increasing crime rate, the state government came up with “Thok Do” policy which as per the deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya means both “to kill someone and, to knock them out”. Though, it is not a new concept rather this practice of encounter killing has been in use for decades. VP Singh was the first CM who supported encounter killings in the state. And at present, Chief Minister of the UP Yogi Adityanath is endorsing it as he infamously told in a June 2017 interview, “Agar apradh karenge toh thok diye jayenge (if they commit crime, we’ll take them out).” Since his charge from 2017, on record 119 encounters have been done by the state’s police.
In order to maintain law and order in the state, the foremost duty of the police force is to protect the people and not to create an atmosphere of fear by adopting any policy which is contrary to the fundamental rights of the citizens including the right to life and the right to equality before law under the Indian Constitution. However, there are certain circumstances in which police personnel can go beyond the peaceful methods and can use force against the civilian as mentioned in the Sec. 46 of the CrPC, 1973 and Sec. 100 of the IPC. As a result of which, the encounter policy has virtually become a part of unofficial state policy.
Also, the apex court of India has provided 16 point guidelines on encounter killing in case of PUCL v. State of Maharashtra:
- Any intelligence or tip-off received regarding criminal activities must be recorded by the police.
- If in pursuance to a tip-off, the police use firearms and cause death of a person, then a proper FIR must be registered.
- And the weapons used in such case must be surrendered.
- An independent Probe must be conducted into such death by CID or any senior police officer.
- Mandatory magisterial inquiry into all cases of encounter deaths must also be held and a report must be sent to the Judicial Magistrate.
- The NHRC or State Human Rights Commission must be immediately informed of the encounter death.
- Medical Aid must be provided to the injured victim/criminal.
- FIR, panchnamas, sketch, and police diary entries must be forwarded to the concerned Court without any delay.
- After full investigation, the report must be sent to the competent Court ensuring expeditious trial.
- In case of death of accused criminal, their family must be informed at the earliest.
- Report of all encounter killings must be sent to the NHRC by the DGPs by a set date in set format.
- A Prompt Action must be initiated against the police officer found guilty of wrongful encounter.
- The compensation scheme under sec. 357-A of the CrPC must be applied to the dependants of the victim.
- Proper legal Aid must be provided to the accused police officer.
- No out-of-turn promotion or instant gallantry awards shall be bestowed on the officers involved in encounter killings soon after the occurrence of such events.
- Any person aggrieved with the procedure may make complaint to the Sessions Judge.
Though we can’t ignore the fact that our police as a guardian of law and order, has to perform difficult and delicate task of dealing with the hardcore criminals in their day to day life, but it is also true that there are a number of cases which are handled by them arbitrarily. In UP where crime rate is on its peak, the police is also violating the fundamental principle of Rule of Law by misusing its power under the blanket of its ‘Thok Do’ policy. It is evident from the fact that most of the encounters done by them are alleged to be fake and done in the lust of power and money. Also, it is improbable that the facts of all police encounters resulting in death would be so similar across so many cases, that they lead to only explanation that a template FIR is being used by the police to cover up extrajudicial murders being committed in these encounters.
In this way, the reality of such encounters is far different from our imagination as there are some questions that always remain unanswered like:
- How did a prisoner get weapon within the jail?
- Why didn’t the weapon with prisoner get detected earlier before he attacks?
- Why didn’t police choose to incapacitate him instead of killing?
Hence, in every encounter killing, a proper investigation need to be done in order to answer all such questions. In case the use of force cannot be justified, it would be considered as a crime and the police officer shall be guilty of culpable homicide as declared by NHRC guidelines in 2010.
CONCLUSION & SUGGESTIONS
In a democratic country like India, where Rule of law is supreme and even state can’t violate right to life of any citizen arbitrarily. Then, the police whose duty is to protect the right to life of every individual, whether innocent or criminal, the encounters by them can never be justified in the light of increasing crime rates in state.
That is why this instant encounter by the UP’s police is also challenged before the Supreme court on basis that it is motivated, extrajudicial, done in cold blood and also sequence of facts provided is similar to the ‘thok do culture’ promoted by CM of Uttar Pradesh Shri Yogi Adityanath Ji which is completely an antithesis of Rule of Law. At present, the matter is still being investigated, but the major concern is that whatever will be the result of investigations, public sentiments are overwhelmingly in favor of these extrajudicial executions, even as they did attract criticism from human rights groups. The most often cited reason for this is citizens’ lack of trust in the Indian criminal justice system which need be restore in the following way:
- As Uttar Pradesh is among top five states with highest number of pending cases according to the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). Therefore, judicial reforms like increase in its funding or judicial officers as well as establishment of an efficient case management should be done.
- Also, Police which is an essential component of our criminal justice system often fails to handle cases properly as per law. With this public lost its trust on law as well as legal bodies and then support such ‘Thok Do’ policies under political motivation. Hence, there is dire need of police reforms particularly to separate it from political executive and protect its independence under law.
 Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/82628164.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst (last visited on May 18, 2021)
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 Art. 21 of The Constitution of India, 1950
 Art. 14 of The Constitution of India, 1950
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 Available at: https://thewire.in/government/uttar-pradesh-yogi-adityanath-encounter-vikas-dubey (last visited on May 18, 2021)
 Available at: https://www.drishtiias.com/loksabha-rajyasabha-discussions/in-depth-encounter-supreme-court-guidelines (last visited on May 18, 2021)
 Available at: https://www.livelaw.in/amp/top-stories/supreme-court-chitrakoot-jail-case-cbi-nia-uttar-pradesh-encounter-174196 (last visited on May 18, 2021)
Author: Kanchan Bala from Lovely Professional University, Phagwara.