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
"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
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
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
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.