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Gauhati High Court asks Assam to file updated probe report encounter cases since May 2021

A view of the Gauhati High Court.

A view of the Gauhati High Court.

GUWAHATI The Gauhati High Court on Friday directed the Assam government to file the updated investigation report on every police encounter case since May 2021 within six weeks.

The court, hearing a petition filed by Delhi-based lawyer and activist Arif Jwadder, also sought to know if any independent investigation into these cases was being done or had been completed.

Appearing for the petitioner virtually from Delhi, civil rights lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan argued that the police did not follow the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the 2014 case of People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) versus Maharashtra on alleged fake encounters

He pointed out that the Assam government did not follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines on conducting independent probes in all cases of encounters, including those resulting in injuries.

Altogether 161 incidents of police action took place across Assam within 13 months of Himanta Biswa Sarma taking charge as the Chief Minister in May 2021. The government had earlier informed the court that 51 people died and 139 were injured in the encounters till May 21, 2022.

Three more deaths were included when the State government filed an affidavit on June 20, as sought by the High Court.

“We received FIRs in 41 cases and each was against the deceased victim. According to the guidelines in the PUCL cases, there should be separate FIRs by an independent probe team. We received none, indicating there has been no independent investigation,” Mr. Jwadder said.

He said such encounters should be probed by independent agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, Special Investigation Team or any police team from another State or district or police station under the supervision of the court.

Mr. Jwadder said the dead or injured persons were not extremists and it was implausible that all the dead or injured accused — as noted by the police — were able to snatch a service revolver from a trained police officer.

Assam’s State Director-General of Police, the Law and Justice Department, the National Human Rights Commission and the Assam Human Rights Commission are respondents in the public interest litigation petition. Advocate General Devajit Saikia represented the State government.

The High Court fixed September 29 as the next date of hearing.

Data tabled in the Lok Sabha on July 26 showed 82 people were killed in police encounters across India during the 2020-2021 fiscal. The figure jumped to 151 during the 2021-2022 fiscal.

Assam recorded a total of 22 deaths during these two financial years. Chhattisgarh led the table with 54 deaths followed by Jammu and Kashmir with 50 and Uttar Pradesh with 27.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2022 12:27:09 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/gauhati-high-court-asks-assam-govt-to-file-updated-probe-report-on-every-encounter-case/article65697806.ece