Pilibhit 'Fake' Encounter 1991| Police Can't Kill Accused Merely Because He Is A Dreaded Criminal: Allahabad High Court
While convicting 43 Uttar Police Personnel under Section 304 Part I IPC in connection with the 1991 Pilibhit Encounter case, the Allahabad High Court today sternly remarked that the police officers can't kill an accused merely because he/she is a dreaded criminal.
"It is not the duty of the police officers to kill the accused merely because he/she is a dreaded criminal. Undoubtedly, the police have to arrest the accused and put them up for a trial," the bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Saroj Yadav remarked in its 179-page order converting the conviction of 43 cops/appellants from Section 302 IPC to Section 304 Part I IPC.
The Court was essentially dealing with the appeals moved by 43 appellants/cops challenging the order passed by Special Judge, C.B.I. /Additional District Judge, Lucknow in April 2016 convicting them under Sections 120-B, 302, 364, 365, 218, 117 IPC.
Read more about the case here: Pilibhit Encounter 1991| "They Exceeded Power Given By Law": Allahabad High Court Convicts 43 Cops U/S 304 Part I IPC
In its Judgment, the trial court had concluded that the appellants, while committing criminal conspiracy, abducted ten Sikh youths and killed them in a fake encounter and thereafter prepared a number of documents in order to convert the killings of these Sikhs into encounters.
In this case, the police officials/appellants (then 47 in number), on the basis of confidential police reports, intercepted a bus carrying passengers/pilgrimage (on 12-13 July 1991) believing that there were some hardcore terrorists of 'Khalistan Liberation Front present in the bus. Thereafter, 10-11 young Sikhs were taken to the police bus by them, and later on, they were killed by these cops/appellants in three different places.
Before the High Court, they argued that they killed ten terrorist persons in self-defense because when they saw the terrorists coming out from the forest area, they challenged them, and since, all of a sudden the terrorists opened fire, thus, in retaliation and in self-defense, they opened fire and in that way, ten terrorist persons were killed in the firing.
However, the Court refused to accept their contention as it noted that their theory did not corroborate with the medical evidence.
Further, the Court also rejected the argument of the appellants' counsels that the police officers killed other deceased in the encounter as they were the companions of the four deceased (alleged terrorists), as the Court stressed that the act of the appellants couldn't be justified to kill innocent persons along with some terrorist taking them to be also terrorists.
However, the Court did observe that the prosecution failed to establish the fact that the appellants committed criminal conspiracy in the kidnapping, abduction, and murder of ten Sikh youths.
Therefore, the Court set aside their conviction under Sections 302/120-B, 364/120-B, 365/120-B, 218/120-B, 117/120-B I.P.C. and instead convicted them under Section 304 Part I of the Indian Penal Code.
The Court converted the conviction primarily because it found that there was no ill will between the appellants and the deceased persons and the appellants' object was the advancement of public justice. However, the Court did add that they exceeded the powers given to them by law, and caused the death of the deceased by doing an act that they, in good faith, believed to be lawful and necessary for the due discharge of their duty (benefit under Exception 3 to Section 300 of the IPC provided).
Case title - Devendra Pandey and others vs. State Of U.P. Thru. C.B.I. along with connected matters
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (AB) 527 [another angle of the story could be read here]
Click Here To Read/Download the order