Questions mark close encounter
Dubey was arrested in Ujjain on Thursday, and then taken by the UP police back to his home town of Kanpur, when on Friday morning, the police alleged that he sought to escape when the car transporting him overturned and was killed in an “encounter”.Updated: Jul 11, 2020, 03:04 IST
Retired police officials, experts and human rights activists have said that Vikas Dubey’s death on Friday morning raises disturbing questions about the procedures followed by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) police; casts a shadow on its integrity and professionalism; points to the existence of a “strong lobby” which did not want to see him alive; and undermines potential investigations into the larger political-crime nexus in the state. They have also demanded an independent probe, and possibly a judicial enquiry, into the killing.
Dubey was arrested in Ujjain on Thursday, and then taken by the UP police back to his home town of Kanpur, when on Friday morning, the police alleged that he sought to escape when the car transporting him overturned and was killed in an “encounter”.
A former director general in the Kerala Police, NC Asthana, said he could point to glaring loopholes in the police’s story about the sequence of events.
“The car overturned but one cannot see any skid marks near the vehicle. The street was wet but there were no skid marks. It is impossible that Dubey was the first person to be able to come out of the car after it overturned. Were there police officers inside the car? Why did the police not handcuff him if he was a notorious gangster? Also, why would Dubey try to flee in a place where there were only open fields all around? And above all Dubey’s mask was intact despite the accident, running and the shootout.”
Asthana said that the story was somewhat similar in the case of Dubey’s associates, who too were shot dead. “Even they supposedly took the police’s weapons while fleeing. All this casts a shadow on the work of the UP police.” He added that the UP police had lost a great opportunity in getting Dubey convicted for the murder of the eight policemen. “His conviction would have set an example but all that is gone now.”
Prakash Singh, who was the chief of the UP police between 1991 and 1993, and has been a key votary of police reforms, said he could not comment if the shootout was staged or genuine but expressed disappointment over the police’s handling of the case.
“I am disappointed. Even if the encounter was genuine, let me say that there should have been no need for a shootout. Why was he not brought on a flight? He would have been a mine of information on the nexus between criminals, police and the powers that be.” Singh added that he had a feeling that there was a “strong lobby” within both the government, and the Opposition too, that did not want Dubey alive. “But I do not know. There could be a possibility (that he was killed in a genuine encounter). But what happened today was unfortunate and disappointing.”
Human rights lawyers and activists too expressed their concern at the incident, but also pointed to the larger pattern of custodial violence, extra judicial killings and lack of accountability of the police, and demanded a probe.
Sanjoy Hazarika, international director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said that Dubey could have given valuable evidence to unearth the nexus between police, criminals and the powers that shielded him.
“What happened on Friday morning is the stuff of reel life. There needs to be a detailed accounting of the events from the time of his arrest to his death. The details of the post-mortem report need to be published and the National Human Rights Commission needs to move quickly on this case asking for accountability. It has raised key issues of due process and custodial violence.”
Colin Gonsalves, a lawyer who has fought a range of human rights cases and is the founder of the Human Rights Law Network, said that under the Code of Criminal Procedure section 176(1)(A), a judicial enquiry should be conducted to find out what led to Dubey’s death. “The law is clear. The enquiry must be held by a judicial magistrate and not an executive magistrate or special investigation team. Has an judicial magistrate been appointed to look into it? The facts point out towards an extra judicial killing.” He emphasised that the UP government must follow the law and probe the chain of events because if a person had been killed in police custody, then it was a “heinous crime”.