GUWAHATI: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday certified a "pattern" for the police to fire upon the accused fleeing from custody.
In the last 56 days since he donned the CM's mantle, at least seven accused in police custody have sustained gunshot wounds while attempting to "flee".
The accused were a cop allegedly involved in a case of kidnapping, a sexagenarian involved in a case of rape and murder of a minor girl, two cattle smugglers, two drug dealers and a dacoit.
Some sniffed a pattern in the incidents and Sarma confirmed it while speaking at the first-of-its-kind conference of Assam Police officers-in-charge of police stations in Guwahati.
"Somebody asked me if it has become a pattern in Assam that criminals are fired upon when they attempt to flee from police custody. I would say that should be the pattern," he said.
According to him, if an accused in police custody makes an attempt to flee, he should be fired upon, not on the chest but the legs as per the law. He said the Assam Police had nothing to fear about in such cases.
"Two persons have been kidnapped and the kidnappers fire at the police. So, what will the police do? If they don't fire, they themselves will get killed," he said, adding, "We should be clear in our conscience that what we are doing is for the well-being of the public and we don't have any personal interest."
However, the Congress was critical of the frequent use of firearms by the police in past two months.
"... It brings questions to thinking minds whether such use of firearm on the plea of 'accused trying to escape' as seen in many of the cases as a concerted effort to silence the accused from spilling the beans of bigger persons involved in the crimes, whether they be of cow smuggling, kidnapping or militant activities," Bobbeeta Sharma, who is the chairperson of Pradesh Congress Committee’s media cell, said.
She said the CM's statement that such firing should be a pattern was like giving a free hand to the police to shoot.
"It may have dangerous results if it becomes a habit. Today, it may be a criminal. Tomorrow it may be an innocent man. This kind of freedom to shoot is against human rights to get a fair trial and undermines the whole judicial process. It also reflects no-confidence in the judicial system," Sharma added.
The CM had asked the police to adopt a policy of zero tolerance against crime against women and make sure there is no case involving cows.
"Nobody should be able to touch girls and women or commit rape and molestation on them. When one or two persons get exemplary punishment, incidents of rape will cease," Sarma told the police officers.
He warned them to not compromise saying people would get inspired if they find a rape accused walking free because the chargesheet was not filed against him.