27 Jun 2023 2:43 AM GMT
The sister of gangster-politician Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf Ahmed, who were gunned down while being in police custody in Uttar Pradesh, has moved the Supreme Court of India seeking a probe headed by a retired judge into the ‘state-sponsored killing’ of the duo, as well as the encounter of Atique’s son and her nephew by the police. Another petition – filed in the public interest...
The sister of gangster-politician Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf Ahmed, who were gunned down while being in police custody in Uttar Pradesh, has moved the Supreme Court of India seeking a probe headed by a retired judge into the ‘state-sponsored killing’ of the duo, as well as the encounter of Atique’s son and her nephew by the police.
Another petition – filed in the public interest by Advocate Vishal Tiwary – is also pending before the apex court seeking an independent inquiry into the killings of the Ahmad brothers, which was caught on live television, and 183 other encounter killings in the State of UP since 2017. The Supreme Court has sought a ‘comprehensive affidavit’ from the Uttar Pradesh government on the steps taken to enquire into the killings, besides seeking information on the inquiry into the encounter killings of the other accused in the Umesh Pal murder case, including Atique Ahmed's son Asad.
In the petition filed through advocates Somesh Chandra Jha and Amartya Ashish Sharan, Aisha Noori – the sister of Atique and Ashraf – has also sought an independent probe into the ‘custodial and extra-judicial killings’ of the petitioner’s brothers, as well as other members of the petitioner’s family all of which occurred just a few days apart from each other, in order to apprehend the ‘high-level state agents’ who have allegedly orchestrated a campaign to “kill, arraign, arrest, and harass” members of her family as a part of a ‘vendetta’. “The respondents are responsible for the deaths. The respondents-police authorities are enjoying the full support of the Uttar Pradesh Government which appears to have granted them complete impunity to kill, arraign, arrest, and harass members of the petitioner’s family as part of a vendetta,” Noori has claimed. The petition adds:
“The deaths of the petitioner’s family members and other persons are connected parts of a vicious, arbitrary, and unlawful campaign by the Government of Uttar Pradesh. In the absence of such a comprehensive and independent inquiry, the rights of the petitioner and her family members under Article 21 of the Constitution would stand violated.”
Noori has invoked the fundamental right to life under Article 21, stressing that it cast a positive procedural obligation on State authorities to effectively investigate to into the deaths. “The purpose of such an investigation is ensure the effective implementation of the guarantee of life and liberty under the Constitution and to ensure that wherever State agents and bodies are involved in any case of extra-judicial killing, they are held accountable for the same,” the petitioner states. Noori has further stated:
“A piecemeal inquiry that only looks at singular encounters that have taken place during the campaign will fail to bring home the responsibility of the higher authorities who are ultimately responsible for killing of the petitioner’s family members. Furthermore, it would put the blame for the deaths on the officers present on the spot in each case rather than the authorities who are responsible for authorising, planning and coordinating such acts.”
If liability is fastened only on lower-level officers and not against the persons ultimately responsible for killing the petitioner’s relatives, there would be no deterrent effect on the state government, Noori has argued. In support of her prayer for a probe headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, the petitioner has stated:
“In order to deter the respondent government from continuing with its unconstitutional program of terror and to restore the rule of law in the state, it is essential that an agency independent of the said government carries out an across-the-board inquiry which can evaluate the role played by high-level state agents who have planned and orchestrated the campaign targeting the petitioner’s family members.”
In March, a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi of the top court declined relief to gangster-turned-politician Atique Ahmad who raised the apprehension that he would be killed by the Uttar Pradesh police in a fake encounter, if shifted from a jail in Gujarat's Sabarmati to one in Prayagraj. The former Lok Sabha member of Samjwadi Party was the prime accused in the sensational murder of Umesh Pal, a key witness to a Bahujan Samaj Party legislator’s murder in 2005.
On April 15, after Atique's transfer to Naini central jail in Prayagraj and his conviction in a 2007 Umesh Pal abduction case by a court in Uttar Pradesh, Atique and his brother, Ashraf, were being taken for medical examination to a city hospital at around 10 in the night. While the media was questioning them, three assailants, who had come to the spot posing as journalists, shot the Ahmad brothers at point-blank range. This incident happened in full view of media persons and was captured live and subsequently aired on news channels, leading to much public debate. The brothers were killed just two days after Atique's son Asad was killed in an encounter.
The alleged assailants have been booked under Sections 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, along with Sections 3, 7, 25, and 27 of the Arms Act, 1959, and other relevant sections. Meanwhile, the UP government has set up a judicial commission to inquire into the matter under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 to be led by retired Allahabad High Court Judge Arvind Kumar Tripathi.
Less than two weeks after this shocking incident, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed seeking an independent probe into the killings, as well as an inquiry into 183 encounters which have allegedly occurred in the state of Uttar Pradesh since 2017. The petition also raises questions about the July 2020 encounter killing of Vikas Dubey, a notorious criminal, history-sheeter and gangster-turned-politician from UP's Kanpur district, by the UP police. The petition argued that “such actions by police are a severe threat to democracy and the rule of law and lead to a police state”.
Aisha Noori v. Union of India & Anr. | Writ Petition (Criminal) No. ____ of 2023