Will MP police follow SC encounter guidelines in SIMI case
Even as the SIMI encounter story makes headlines, the question being asked in informed circles is whether the MP police followed/may follow the guidelines the Supreme Court has issued just before the Diwali vacation.
Setting a set of 16 guidelines for police encounters, the Supreme Court said a written record be made regarding the intelligence or any such input regarding movements of persons or groups intending to commit grave criminal offence (say like terrorist strikes etc.). It should be preferably in the case diary or shall be in some electronic form – like electronic data files in a computer or other device. However, as a safe guard, such electronic recording or entry into case diary need not give the full details of persons or groups or locations intended to be attacked by them.
These directions came from a bench presided by Chief Justice of India (CJI) T.S. Thakur on a public interest litigation by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) which sought a leash on cops basking in the glory of false encounters. It is charged that often false encounters are done for medals and promotions.
The Apex Bench said that following intelligence inputs or any other such tip-off, if an encounter takes place and firearms are used and deaths occurred, an FIR should be registered and forwarded to the relevant court having territorial jurisdiction under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) without any delay. This couldn’t be that much of a leash as normally after an FIR chargesheet is prepared and trial begins, a lot of time is consumed. Given the rate of trials in India, the process may take years before coming to the conclusion whether it was a real or fake encounter. Then appeals after appeals and a few generations would have come and gone.
However, further guidelines of the Apex Court are as following:
* Procedure prescribed under Section 158 of the Code shall be followed; * An independent investigation into the incident/encounter shall be conducted by the CID or police team of another police station under the supervision of a senior officer (at least a level above the head of the police party engaged in the encounter). The team conducting inquiry/investigation shall, at a minimum, seek colour photographs of the victim and they should be preserved; also the evidentiary material, including blood-stained earth, hair, fibers and threads, etc. * identify scene witnesses with complete names, addresses and telephone Numbers and their statements;
* determine the cause, manner, location (including preparation of rough sketch of
topography of the scene and photo/video of the scene and any physical evidence) and time of death fingerprints of deceased to be sent for chemical analysis. Any other fingerprints should be located, developed, lifted and sent for chemical analysis;
* Post-mortem must be conducted by two doctors in the District Hospital of the occurrence of the incidence and should be video- graphed and preserved; These apart evidence of weapons should be preserved, cause of death should be found out, whether natural death, accidental, suicide or homicide.
Magisterial inquiry under Section 176 of the Cr.PC is a must in all cases of death; report must be sent to Judicial Magistrate having jurisdiction under Section 190 of the Code; information of the incident shall be sent to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) or the State Human Rights Commission, which is relevant in such cases.
Another important guideline is that the injured criminal/victim should be provided medical aid and his/her statement recorded by the Magistrate or Medical Officer with certificate of fitness. The kith and kin of the victim should be informed at the earliest. Bi-annual statements of all cases where deaths have occurred in police firing must be sent to NHRC. Further the police officer(s) concerned must surrender his/her weapons for forensic and ballistic analysis, including any other material, as required by the investigating team, subject to the rights under Article 20 of the Constitution.
The guideline also says that no out-of-turn promotion or instant gallantry rewards shall be bestowed on the policeman concerned immediately after any such encounter. This may now discourage many adventurist police fellows to shoot at sight and call it an encounter.
However, there are many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and the first is witnesses. In a country like India where no one wants to be a witness even in a simple accident case and many just turn a blind eye to an accident victim and flee away, whether in an encounter it is possible to produce a witness.
The SIMI encounter case may show whether the government and its police forces will follow the SC guidelines.