“The police force requires a sea change in their mind set. They should not be under the impression that they are above law. Law is supreme. Law enforcing machinery should not become a law unto themselves,” said the Madras High Court Bench here on Tuesday.

Justice K.K. Sasidharan made the observations while disposing of a writ petition filed by the wife of an accused, Senu Chidambaram alias Kutti, who was wanted in connection with many criminal cases, to restrain the Thanjavur police from killing him in an encounter.

“At first blush, the prayer sought for by the petitioner would appear to be too strange… Media reports regarding the alleged extra-judicial killings by the police appears to have prompted her to file this writ petition. Therefore, she cannot be blamed,” the judge said.

He went on to state: “The deaths in police custody have assumed alarming proportions in recent times. Such incidents were defended on the ground that the attempt made by the prisoner to snatch the rifle and the act of attacking the police officials made them to open fire. “The bona-fides of such contentions are matters to be decided by the courts in appropriate proceedings.

Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees right to life and personal liberty and an individual could be deprived of such a right only in accordance with the procedure established by law. “The extra judicial killings by the police cannot be termed as a procedure permitted by law,” the judge added.

In so far as the present case was concerned, he said that it would be open to the petitioner's husband to surrender before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Thanjavur in order to get recalled a non-bailable warrant pending against him.

After such surrender, if the police want to take him under their custody for interrogation, they could do so only after swearing an affidavit before the Magistrate undertaking to produce the accused in the very same condition in which he was taken from judicial custody.

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