Probe, try policemen involved in shootouts, says Andhra High Court

February 6th, 2009 - 10:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Feb 6 (IANS) The Andhra Pradesh High Court, in a landmark verdict, Friday ruled that cases should be filed against policemen involved in shootouts and their names should be made public.The five-member bench headed by Chief Justice A.R. Dave held that an FIR should be registered against policemen involved in any shootout and an investigation should be conducted to establish whether the police were justified in opening fire.

The court verdict is significant in Andhra Pradesh, which is notorious for a large number of shootout killings of Maoists, suspected terrorists and even petty criminals. Human rights groups have often termed these ‘encounters’ as ’stage-managed’ and accused the police of violating human rights.

Successive governments have refused to make the names and other details of policemen and officials involved in any shootout on grounds of their security.

The high court passed the order on a public interest litigation filed by a civil rights group which sought action against policemen involved in ‘fake encounters’ or staged shootouts.

The petition filed by Human Rights Forum was first taken up by a single-judge bench but later, in view of the significance of the case, it was referred to a three-judge bench.

However, the bench delivered a divided verdict with one judge opposing any action against the policemen. After this, the case was referred to the full bench.

Rights groups and activists hailed the court order and hoped this would make the police accountable before the law.

“Now the court will decide whether an encounter is fake or not. Once the FIR is lodged against the policemen involved, the matter will go before the court,” said Bujja Tarakam, an activist and the counsel for the petitioner.

“The law does not allow the police to indiscriminately fire and kill any body. Now they will have to establish that they genuinely opened fire in self defenCe,” he said, rebutting the often repeated claim of policemen after shootouts that they returned the fire.

Maoist sympathiser and balladeer Gaddar and revolutionary writer Varavara Rao welcomed the court order.

“We hope that the court order will put some sense in the police. Otherwise both the police and the government that shields them will have to face the court,” said Gaddar.

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