CHENNAI: The detailed, 16-point guideline issued by the Supreme Court on ‘encounter’ cases has sparked a debate among activists in Tamil Nadu, who have charged that the guideline has rendered the National Human Rights Commission toothless.
“The involvement of NHRC is not necessary unless there is serious doubt about independent and impartial investigation,” reads one of the guidelines. This, say activists, appears to be in contravention to the statute on which the NHRC was formed by the Executive.
According to senior advocate and former special public prosecutor on human rights cases at Madras High Court, V Kannadasan, the Judiciary was well aware of the limited power that the NHRC has in handling such a case. This, he said, could be one of the reasons behind framing such a point in the guidelines.
Welcoming the guidelines in general, Kannadasan said the FIR relating to an encounter killing should be pursued by specialised agency that is autonomous, like the Lok Ayukta, as there is a risk that the police official investigating the case could come under pressure or influence to act in favour of a fellow official. “On the other hand, if the case is handled by an autonomous organisation, we can expect better investigation without bias,” he pointed out.
“That agency should be functioning under NHRC or the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC),” Kannadasan added, even as he admitted that not a single criminal case was recommended by the SHRC thus far in the State.
Another rights advocate, V Elango said that as each encounter is situation-specific, the term ‘encounter’ used by field level officers should be ignored. “The Supreme Court shouldn’t have acknowledged the term and frame guidelines for the same. It is as if a set of rules had been provided and satisfying the same would enable any police official to stage an encounter and get away with it,” Elango said.
The apex court’s position that the involvement of the rights body was not necessary was “unwarranted”, charged Elango. “It is an excess from Judiciary on the Executive. NHRC is a statutory body functioning under its statutes. How can they control NHRC?,” he wondered.