Was it lawful?

September 24, 2015, Chennai

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Justice A.S. AnandJustice A.S. Anand, the then Chairperson, National Human rights Commission, a former Chief Justice of India wrote a detailed letter to all Chief Ministers in December, 2003.


  He said death during the course of a police action is always a cause of concern to a civil society. The police does not have a right to take away the life of a person. If, by his act, the policeman kills a person, he commits an offence of culpable homicide of not amounting to murder, unless it is established that such killing was not an offence under the law.

Under the scheme of criminal law prevailing in India, it would not be an offence if the death is caused in exercise of right of private defence. Another provision under which the police officer can justify causing the death of a person, is section 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This provision authorizes the police to use reasonable force, even extending up to the causing of death, if found necessary to arrest the person accused of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life. Thus, it is evident that death caused in an encounter if not justified would amount to an offence of culpable homicide.

Police ‘says’ that a history-sheeter and his associate were yesterday shot dead by police in an encounter after the duo allegedly hurled country-made bombs and opened fire at them. According to the police, three policemen were injured in the attack which occurred when they intercepted a car in which the two alleged rowdies -- "Dindigul" Pandi and Velu were travelling near Neelankarai on the city outskirts. Police says they fired in retaliation in which the two were killed.

Encounter deaths are on the increase and this is an unhealthy trend. The police have no right to kill a person. Of course, the Neelankarai police have registered a case and sent a report to the RDO, Tambaram for further enquiry. Mostly such cases will stop with this formality. I strongly feel that an FIR too must be registered under appropriate sections of the I.P.C. As has often been suggested, nay mandated by the NHRC, this case too shall be investigated by the State CB CID and a Magisterial Inquiry must be held, with which the next of kin of the deceased must be associated. The public have the right to know whether use of force was justified and if the action taken was lawful.