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India: Supreme Court Judgement on Batla House ’Encounter’ will set a dangerous precedent

by Jamia Teachers Solidarity Group, 30 October 2009

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Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association terms the judgement given by a bench of Supreme Court judges dismissing the plea for ordering a judicial enquiry in Batla House encounter case as highly unfortunate. The bench’s main argument—that, any enquiry would cause “unnecessary harassment of the police” and “adversely affect the morale of the police”—is astoundingly irrelevant to the merit of the case. One fails to understand how an enquiry would amount to harassment of the police as hundreds, if not thousands, of enquiries are in progress against the police at any given moment. The judges when responding to the petitioner’s argument that large sections of society have doubts on the role of the police said: “Criminals are criminals. Don’t identify them with any section of the society.” How come the honourable judges have already made up their minds about the accused when they have been not subjected to any trial or fair enquiry—does not labelling them “criminals” in the absence of any enquiry militate against the very basic tenets of law and principles of natural justice?

Moreover, this judgement will have momentous implications as it will be ceaselessly cited and applied to a variety of cases where an enquiry against the police is pending or being demanded. In the long run, this judgement could contribute to the subversion of crucial institutions and mechanisms evolved for the safeguarding of democratic rights. It raises some very serious questions:

  • How does constituting an enquiry into a widely suspected encounter be regarded as an “unnecessary harassment”? Does it not imply that flouting of NHRC guidelines on encounter killings which demands that a magisterial enquiry be held after each encounter killing have received the sanction of the SC?
  • Does it mean that enquiry into Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin fake encounter cases should not have been ordered since they would amount to “adversely affecting morale of the police.”? Does it mean that enquiry into Ranbir encounter case in Dehradun in which several policemen have been implicated is unnecessary? If the Supreme Court had its way many of similar potential miscarriages of justice would have never come to light.

Such a judgement literally amounts to giving the police a licence to kill anyone anywhere without fear of ever being questioned. JTSA reiterates its commitment to deepen the struggle for judicial probe into the Batla House ‘encounter’ and against the culture of extra judicial killings.

Sd/-

Manisha Sethi (President, JTSA) 9811625577

Adeel Mehdi (Gen. Secy, JTSA) 9990923027.