SC verdicts talked tough against security personnel on fake encounters


  1. As videos aired on the alleged police encounter of eight men who broke out of the Bhopal Central Jail raise demands for a judicial probe, a series of Supreme Court judgments show that the law is heavily, even fatally, loaded against police officers found guilty of ‘fake encounters’.
  2. One of the judgments even recommends the death penalty to “trigger-happy” police personnel and compare them to Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg trials who tried to brush off their culpability on their superior officers.
  3. Fake ‘encounters’ are nothing but cold blooded, brutal murder by persons who are supposed to uphold the law,” the Supreme Court held in Prakash Kadam versus Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta on May 13, 2011.
  4. ‘Encounter’ philosophy is said to be a criminal philosophy.
  5. The 2011 judgment became a precedent for a Bench led by then Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha in the PUCL case, which dealt with 99 encounters committed by the Mumbai police between 1995 and 1997.
  6. In the 2014 judgment, the apex court empathised with the police force, saying their job was tough: “We are not oblivious of the fact that police in India have to perform a difficult and delicate task, particularly, when many hardcore criminals, extremists, terrorists, drug peddlers, smugglers who have organised gangs .” But that did not mean the police overlook the rule of law, SC cautioned.
  7. It listed 16 guidelines to be mandatorily complied with by the State in case of police encounter deaths. These included a scientific, well-documented and decisive investigation by an independent agency.
  8. The fairness of the probe was open to challenge before a sessions court.
  9. More importantly, if the Bhopal encounter videos are found to be true, they show that officers involved violated the Supreme Court judgment that immediate medical aid should be administered to the suspects shot in an encounter.
  10. Further, the Supreme Court laid out that the intelligence tip-off leading to the encounter should be recorded and a First Information Report was registered.
  11. “It does not matter whether the victim was a common person or a militant or a terrorist, nor does it matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the State. The law is the same for both and is equally applicable to both. This is the requirement of a democracy,” the Supreme Court held in a July 2016 judgment on 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters involving Army and police in Manipur.