Reports of Uttar Pradesh Police allegedly conducting fake encounters have been rife in the media for some time now. Infact these fake encounters, particularly in UP and Gujarat aren’t new and the police of both the states have often been embroiled and charged for such crimes.

Of late, there have been moves by some social organizations like India Against Hate (IAH) to highlight the present spate of alleged killings by the state police. Recently nine families of victims of those killed in encounters in Uttar Pradesh, led by social activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Sajjad Hasan (Ex IAS) of IAH met the NHRC chairperson justice H.L. Dattu on 8 May.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) consequently issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief secretary and the state director general of police (DGP) and ordered an investigation into the alleged cases of extrajudicial executions, more commonly referred as the infamous ‘Fake Encounters’.

Close on the heels of such investigations and actions against the police having been initiated to hold the department accountable, a local court today sentenced former deputy mayor of Lucknow and three others, including two policemen, to life imprisonment for their involvement in a fake police encounter in Aliganj area, Lucknow, around 24 years ago, in which a person was killed.

Ex-deputy mayor of Lucknow Abhay Seth, then general secretary of Aliganj traders’ union, Ashok Mishra and two constables, Ram Chander Singh Chandel and Shivbhushan Tiwari, were convicted by the court.

The then station officer of Aliganj, D D S Rathore and constable Munshilal were also charge sheeted in the case, but they died during trial.

Awarding the punishment, the court said the prosecution has succeeded to prove that the four were involved in the fake encounter.

Cartoon courtesy Satish Acharya

Aliganj police had claimed that it had gunned down a gangster Gopal Mishra on February 26, 1994 in an encounter. The then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh had directed the CB-CID on December 11, 1997 to register an FIR in the case.

In its probe, the CB-CID found that it was a fake encounter and submitted the charge sheet against all the accused under various sections of IPC and the Arms Act.

The court framed charges against the accused on October 7, 2008 and started the trial. The prosecution produced 13 witnesses, including the mother of the deceased who was an eyewitness.

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According to the prosecution, Ashok was involved in the construction business and had built a complex in Aliganj. Influenced by him, Gopal also started to live with him.

Later Gopal also wanted to construct a complex on a land which Ashok had eyed, it said.

On the day of the incident, a police team raided Gopal’s house. Ashok Mishra and Abhay Seth were with the police team. The police shot dead Gopal and planted a fake country-made pistol which was provided by Ashok, the prosecution added.

The sequel of events and the sentencing of the policemen in this case as well as many other cases of convictions, clearly point to the policemen actively conniving in conducting these fake encounters. Even though the contention could be that the killing was done at the behest of someone superior in the hierarchy and they were simply following orders. This however is never an excuse to commit a criminal act, in the eyes of law.

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Changing times and advancement of technology has provided tools like spy camcorders, conversation recording applications and a host of other sophisticated equipment. These, coupled with the power and reach of social media, has enabled the vigilant public to start taking a lead role in exposing the few camouflaged criminal minds hidden in the police force and bringing them to justice, sooner or later.

Justice, even if slow, is sure to invariably catch up the wrong doers. Thus sentencing of the 4, including the Ex Deputy Mayor and the policemen, should serve as a reminder call to those wielding the power entrusted unto them by the state. It should stand as a lesson to all those in responsible positions, to lead by example and discourage any instances of injustice not only at the hands of themselves but by those whom they command, at every level.

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