The conviction of 10 Delhi policemen, including Assistant Commissioner of Police S.S. Rathi, in the Connaught Place shootout case is a trendsetter from the human rights perspective in as much as the court took a very strict view of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar rejected the plea of the accused that policemen accused of similar killings of civilians in United Kingdom and the United States were let off and, therefore, they couldn’t be held guilty of murder.
“If there is any dilution of human rights in any other country, the same cannot become precedence in India, ASJ Kumar, who is scheduled to decide on Wednesday whether to give death penalty or life imprisonment to the convicts, said in his 66-page order.
“Even at the height of terrorism in India, law makers as well as the judiciary have upheld the high standards set by the Constitution of India in Article 21, which states that no person shall be deprived of his life of personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
“Even a hardened criminal and a terrorist enjoys this protection,” the ASJ said holding Rathi and nine other policemen guilty of killing businessman Pradeep Goyal and Jagjeet Singh in broad day light on March 31, 1997 in the heart of the capital. The businessmen were killed because the accused had conspired to kill Md. Yaseen, the court said.
The accused had cited a case wherein the British Police had killed an innocent unarmed Brazilian national in London Tube train in the aftermath of serial blasts there. The British Prime Minister had regretted the incident but said that such incidents were possible in war on terror.
They had also given the example of an American case wherein police officers accused of killing a person was acquitted on the ground that he had taken out a purse from the pocket of his pant, which the policemen, thought to be a weapon. However, the court said the American and British instances pointed out by the defence counsel would show that in both cases the police officers involved did not plant any weapon upon the persons killed by them.