Kosha Doshi | Symbiosis Law School, Pune | 26th March 2020
People’s Union for Civil v State of Maharashtra [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1255 OF 1999; Supreme Court]
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court the issue of nearly 99 encounters between the Mumbai police and the alleged criminals resulting in death of about 135 persons between 1995 and 1997 was raised. The following prayers were sought:
- Furnishing of details and particulars in regard to persons killed in last one year in police encounters
- State of Maharashtra to register offences under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code
- Coroner of Mumbai to submit a detailed report and the details of action taken by him under the provisions of the Coroners Act, 1871
- The appropriate authority to enquire into and report to this Court in all the police encounters that have taken place not only in the city of Mumbai but also in the entire State of Maharashtra in which persons have been killed or injured in police encounters
- Constitute a Maharashtra State Human Rights commissions
PUCL was not satisfied with the adequacy of the reliefs granted by the High Court and, consequently, it filed three SLPs against the judgment and order dated 22-25.02.1999.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down he procedure to be followed while investigating cases of police encounters resulting in deaths of civilians. It was held that Whenever the police is in receipt of any intelligence or tip-off regarding criminal movements or activities pertaining to the commission of grave criminal offence, it shall be reduced into writing in some form (preferably into case diary) or in some electronic form.
If pursuant to the tip-off or receipt of any intelligence, as above, encounter takes place and firearm is used by the police party and as a result of that, death occurs, an FIR to that effect shall be registered and the same shall be forwarded to the court under Section 157 of the Code without any delay. While forwarding the report under Section 157 of the Code, the procedure prescribed under Section 158 of the Code shall be followed. Further, an independent investigation into the incident/encounter shall be conducted by the CID or police team of another police station under the supervision of a senior officer (at least a level above the head of the police party engaged in the encounter). Certain guidelines are laid to its requisition.
A Magisterial inquiry under Section 176 of the Code must invariably be held in all cases of death which occur in the course of police firing and a report thereof must be sent to Judicial Magistrate having jurisdiction under Section 190 of the Code. The involvement of NHRC is not necessary unless there is serious doubt about independent and impartial investigation. The injured criminal/victim should be provided medical aid and his/her statement recorded by the Magistrate or Medical Officer with certificate of fitness. It should be ensured that there is no delay in sending FIR, diary entries, panchnamas, sketch, etc., to the concerned Court.
After full investigation into the incident, the report should be sent to the competent court under Section 173 of the Code. The trial, pursuant to the charge sheet submitted by the Investigating Officer, must be concluded expeditiously. In the event of death, the next of kin of the alleged criminal/victim must be informed at the earliest. Six monthly statements of all cases with proper format where deaths have occurred in police firing must be sent to NHRC by DGPs. It must be ensured that the six-monthly statements reach to NHRC by 15th day of January and July, respectively.If on the conclusion of investigation, the materials/evidence having come on record show that death had occurred by use of firearm amounting to offence under the IPC, disciplinary action against such officer must be promptly initiated and he be placed under suspension. Accordingly, we direct that the above requirements / norms must be strictly observed in all cases of death and grievous injury in police encounters by treating them as law declared under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.