`Award death to cops involved in fake encounters`
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Last Updated: Saturday, May 14, 2011, 00:50
New Delhi: Fake encounter killings by cops are nothing but "cold-blooded brutal murder" which should be treated as the "rarest of rare" offence and police personnel responsible for it should be awarded death sentence, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Dismissing a bunch of bail applications by a group of police officials who allegedly acted as contract killers, a bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra said in a judgement that fake encounters were cold-blooded murders by the men in khaki.

"We are of the view that in cases where a fake encounter is proved against policemen in a trial, they must be given death sentence, treating it as the rarest of rare cases.

"Fake encounters are nothing but cold-blooded, brutal murder by persons who are supposed to uphold the law. In our opinion, if crimes are committed by ordinary people, ordinary punishment should be given but if the offence is committed by policemen much harsher punishment should be given to them because they do an act totally contrary to their duties," Justice Katju writing the judgement said.

The apex court said it would not brook any excuse from policemen that they were acting at the behest of their superior officers.

"We warn policemen that they will not be excused for committing murder in the name of 'encounter' on the pretext that they were carrying out the orders of their superior officers or politicians, however high. In the Nuremburg trials, the Nazi war criminals took the plea that 'orders are orders' but nevertheless they were hanged.

"If a policeman is given an illegal order by any superior to do a fake 'encounter', it is his duty to refuse to carry out such illegal order, otherwise he will be charged for murder and, if found guilty, sentenced to death. The 'encounter' philosophy is a criminal philosophy and all policemen must know this. Trigger happy policemen who think they can kill people in the name of 'encounter' and get away with it should know that the gallows await them, the bench said.

The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal filed by head constable Prakash Kadam and other police personnel challenging their bail cancellation by the Bombay High Court.

The prosecution had argued that so-called encounter specialist Pradip Sharma, Inspector Pradip Suryawanshi, Kadam and about a dozen policemen abducted a real estate operator Ramnaryan Gupta on November 11, 2006 and shot him dead in a fake encounter.

It was alleged that the accused policemen resorted to the crime by acting as contract killers for main accused Janardan Bhange, an estranged colleague of the deceased.

Bhanged is alleged to have utilised the services of the police personnel following his differences with the deceased in real estate operations.

The apex court said it was a matter of grave concern that policemen, who are supposed to uphold the law and protect the people, acted as contract killers which could create strong fears among the general public.

"This is a very serious case wherein prima facie some police officers and staff were engaged by some private persons to kill their opponent i.e. Ramnarayan Gupta and the police officers and the staff acted as contract killers for them.

"If such police officers and staff can be engaged as contract killers to finish some person, there may be very strong apprehension in the mind of the witnesses about their own safety. If the police officers and staff could kill a person at the behest of a third person, it cannot be ruled out that they may kill the important witnesses or their relatives or give threats to them at the time of trial of the case to save themselves," the apex court said.

The bench said the sessions court had completely ignored the magnitude of the crime while granting the bail.

"This aspect has been completely ignored by the learned Sessions Judge while granting bail to the accused persons. In our opinion, the High Court was perfectly justified in canceling the bail to the accused-appellants.

"The accused/appellants are police personnel and it was their duty to uphold the law. But far from performing their duty, they appear to have operated as criminals. Thus, the protectors have become the predators. As the Bible says, "if the salt has lost its flavour, wherewith shall it be salted?", or as the ancient Romans used to say "who will guard the Praetorian guards?" the bench remarked.


First Published: Saturday, May 14, 2011, 00:50

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