‘Can’t cite cop death to justify fake encounters’

The Supreme Court has held that it was "not open" to the State to take shelter behind the number of policemen and other security personnel killed to justify illegal custodial deaths and fake encounters.

"For this court, the life of a policeman or a member of the security forces is no less precious and valuable than any other person. The lives lost in the fight against terrorism and insurgency are indeed the most grievous loss. But to the State it is not open to cite the numbers of policemen and security forces killed to justify custodial death, fake encounter or what this court had called 'administrative liquidation'," said a Bench led by Justice Aftab Alam.

Reminding the State that such a mode of elimination was not permitted by the Constitution, the Bench said in a situation where the court finds a person's rights, especially the right to life, under assault by the State or the agencies of the State, "it must step in and stand with the individual and prohibit the State or its agencies from violating the rights guaranteed under the Constitution. That is the role of this Court and it would perform it under all circumstances."

The Bench made these observations while constituting a high-powered commission, comprising former SC judge Justice (retired) N Santosh Hegde as its chairperson and former chief election commissioner J M Lyngdoh and former Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar Singh as members, to look into the complaints of extra-judicial killings in Manipur.

The Bench had, during the hearing on January 4, said it would pass a formal order on constituting the commission after taking the consent of the proposed members. On Monday, the Bench released its order, mentioning the three names.

The court has asked the commission to conduct a "thorough" inquiry into six alleged cases of extra-judicial killings first and submit a report within 12 weeks.

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