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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Five years and verdict later, many questions remain

Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 25, 2013
First Published: 23:09 IST(25/7/2013) | Last Updated: 02:36 IST(26/7/2013)

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The trial court's endorsement of the police version of the 2008 Batla House encounter has provided a boost to the force, but some key questions surrounding the controversial incident still remain unanswered.

The Centre and the Delhi government have been evasive on why the mandatory magisterial inquiry into the encounter was not conducted and even the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) did not conduct its own probe despite demands from various quarters.

The 2003 NHRC guidelines made it mandatory to conduct a "magisterial inquiry in all cases of death that occur in the course of police action".

Right to Information activist Afroz Alam Sahil had sought a response from the NHRC on whether it had asked for a probe in this encounter. The commission replied: "The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi declined to pass an order for magisterial inquiry in the instant case as laid down under the guidelines of the commission."

The LG's office passed the buck, saying since petitions had been filed in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court seeking a judicial probe, it could not take a decision. Ultimately the courts rejected the demand.

What was, however, surprising was the basis on which the then LG and his office anticipated that the courts would turn down the demand for a judicial probe into the encounter.

The Delhi High Court rejected a petition for a judicial probe in August 2009 and the Supreme Court did so three months later, but the LG's office had declined the magisterial probe much before in January that year.

The NHRC also steered clear of conducting its own probe into the encounter. In its report submitted to the high court in July 2009, the commission referred to the Delhi Police version about the incident.

Finally, the Supreme Court in October 2009 dismissed the petition seeking an impartial probe into the encounter, saying: "Thousands of police officers have been killed in similar operations. An independent probe after one year of the incident will hit the morale of the police force."

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