ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Extrajudicial Executions

The Supreme Court has failed the citizen on encounter killings.

From the villages of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Telangana to the streets of Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the disturbing increase in police-executed extrajudicial killings, crudely referred to as “encounter killings,” threatens the lives of citizens. On paper, police “encounters” are said to comprise a spontaneous shoot-out between police officers and armed civilians in which the police are fired upon, and (in self-defence) fire back, killing the alleged criminals.

Police reports of encounter killings usually follow this “shoot-out” narrative. Yet the distinction between supposedly legitimate encounters and so-called “fake encounters” is, in practice, illusory. More often than not, evidence indicates that these police narratives are false, and that the alleged encounters have in fact been staged: guns and ammunition are planted at the scene by police, victims’ bodies are cremated before independent autopsies can be conducted, police officers rarely sustain injuries from ostensible exchanges of fire, and witness accounts tell of police “rounding up” victims for execution. Shockingly, police officers are frequently rewarded for such murders, creating an incentive to stage further killings. Encounters thus constitute a gross violation of the right to life, a tenet enshrined in the Constitution and in international human rights law.

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