In a shocking case of the State virtually supporting an extrajudicial killing, the Supreme Court has condemned the Uttar Pradesh government for screening police officers accused in an encounter death even as the victim’s father was made to run from pillar to post for justice for 19 long years.
A Bench led by Justice Vineet Saran ordered the State government to cough up ₹7 lakh as costs within a week. The amount would be withdrawn by the father, Yash Pal Singh.
In a scathing order, the apex court said, “This is a very serious case where the petitioner, who is father of the deceased, is running from pillar to post to ensure that justice is given to him in a case which was registered against the accused, who were all police officers.”
The order coincides with Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana expressing his strong reservations about the conduct of police officers and bureaucracy in the country.
In its order, the Bench of Justices Saran and Aniruddha Bose detailed the horror of the plight of a father fighting against the odds piled on him relentlessly by the State.
The incident dates back to 2002. The police shortly after filed a closure report in the death, favouring the accused police officers.
However, the trial court had not been convinced and rejected the closure report in January 2005. The trial court gave detailed reasons for declining to close the case in favour of the accused.
None of the police officers were arrested for the murder for the next nine months though there was no stay order on their arrest. The first arrest was in October 2005 of just one accused.
The case remained pending for over a decade without further arrest. Even the Allahabad High Court’s refusal to quash the case did not prompt an arrest. Successive orders of the trial court to stop payment of salaries to the accused were ignored by the State government.
“It is noteworthy that it was only after notices were issued by this court in this writ petition on September 2021 that the State machinery geared up in action and arrested two of the accused persons after 19 years and one accused has surrendered,” the apex court order noted.
But one of the accused is still absconding. He had retired from service with full benefits and disappeared.
“Such conduct of the State cannot be understood. The laxity with which the State has proceeded in the present case speaks volumes of how the State machinery is defending or protecting its own police officers,” the Supreme Court observed.
It said the sheer circumstances of the case were “extraordinary”.
“We have entertained this petition to ensure that justice be given to the petitioner [Mr. Singh], which has been denied for about two decades,” the apex court said.
The court has listed the case again on October 20.