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Tags Current Affairs

Encounter rules

Date: 13 July 2020 Tags: Judiciary & Judgments


The killing of gangster Vikas Dubey by the Uttar Pradesh Police has put the spotlight back on encounters or executive killings. 



The legality of police action in such circumstances has been debated for long, and a legal framework was put in place with the intention of establishing accountability.



  • The Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have framed guidelines that are to be followed in cases of custodial deaths.

  • In 1993, the Commission had issued general guidelines that every case of custodial death must be intimated to it within 24 hours.

  • Further, the post mortem reports, inquest requests, and other related documentation was to be sent to the human rights watchdog to ascertain its reliability within two months of the incident.

  • If a death is prime facie found to be a case of death that took place unlawfully, the Commission would grant compensation to the victim’s kin and penalise the errant state and its officials, it was decided.

  • This meant that for every case of custodial death, the concerned officers would be on trial, and their actions would not constitute an offence in only two circumstances:

(a)If they have killed the individual in order to protect themselves and, b) if the use of force extending to death is necessary for making an arrest.

  • An FIR is registered under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code which penalises culpable homicide. The Indian Evidence Act puts the burden of proof on the defence — the police in this case — to prove that the offence was not committed.

  • Despite the guidelines that are the law of the land, encounter killings continue to happen. Political patronage to such incidents also adds to the lack of proper investigation.


Judicial provisions

  • In 2009, a five-judge Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court recognised in the case of ‘Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee vs. Government of Andhra Pradesh’ that illegal killings by policemen have been taking place with impunity.

  • The verdict in the public interest litigation, which was decided in 2014, mandated that every custodial death would be probed by a magistrate as per Section 170 of the CrPC.

  • The court also issued several guidelines on holding an independent investigation into the encounter. The court said that the investigation 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.

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