Friday, May 15, 2009

Supreme Court notice to A.P. government

J. Venkatesan

On plea to vacate stay on filing cases in encounter deaths

A.P. High Court ordered filing of homicide cases against police for a 2006 ’encounter’ killing

SLP by A.P. Police Officers Association was directed against this judgment

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the State government on an application from the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) for vacating the interim stay of a judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court directing registration of cases against individual police officers responsible for encounter deaths or killings of naxalites in the State.

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Deepak Verma issued notice after hearing senior counsel Rajinder Sachar and directed the matter to be listed for hearing on July 13.

The Supreme Court had earlier stayed the impugned judgment dated February 6.

Acting on a petition from APCLC, a five-Judge Bench of the High Court ordered registration of cases of homicide against the police officers for the killing of eight Maoist naxalites in the alleged encounter incident that took place on July 23, 2006 at Nallamala forest area in Prakasam district. The special leave petition by the AP Police Officers Association was directed against this judgment. The present application is filed in this SLP.

Pleading for vacating the stay, the applicant cited a number of Supreme Court judgments and said: “There is a rich history of contextually evolved jurisprudence developed by the Courts of this land which deprecates, in no uncertain terms, the instrumentalities of State, particularly the police, taking the law into their own hands.”

“Where such instances, whether of fake ‘encounters,’ police custody deaths, ‘disappearances,’ or torture have been brought to the notice of the Court, this Court has not hesitated in recording unambiguous disapproval, and has taken the opportunity to lay down legal principles which would apply across the board, to arrest the malaise of State impunity and the erosion of the constitutional fabric.”

“Most victims civilians”

It pointed out that during the period between 1997 and 2003, a total of 1,314 people were killed by the police in such alleged ‘encounters’. Most of those killed were ordinary civilians and were not even alleged to have been naxalites. “If stay is not vacated, the applicant and other petitioners before the High Court will suffer irreparable damage. Furthermore, the stay will result in delay in investigation of numerous other offences arising out of ‘encounter’ or custodial deaths, and may have irreparable negative consequences for investigations throughout the country” it said.

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