Fake encounter In Sammelan Market, Aashiaanaa Nagar,
Ashiana encounter fake, says CBI too
On 29 December, 2002, one of the local dailies of state carried the headlines
on the front page "Three Criminals Killed In Police Encounter".
Similar headlines appeared in all Hindi and English dailies. Almost everywhere
there was a subtitle that informed about the institution of a CID probe.
The next day all newspapers were reporting that the three youths killed
in the alleged encounter did not have any criminal antecedents and it
was a case of fake encounter. In the past PUCL has been conducting enquiries
into case of alleged fake encounters usually on allegations made on behalf
of the victims.
As the case appeared
so blatant and was followed by strong public outrage-PUCL, Bihar State
Unit decided suo moto to constitute a team and investigate the entire
episode. The enquiry team consisted of the following persons: R.C.L. Das,
President, PUCL, Bihar State Unit; Vinay K. Kantha, Vice President, Bihar
State Unit; Nand Kishore Singh, Member, Bihar State Council; Satish Kumar,
Member, Bihar State Council.
Subsequently Kishori Das, General Secretary, PUCL, Bihar State Unit also
joined the team and assisted in procuring some important documents.
Mode of enquiry
On January 1, 2003 the team visited the homes of the three victims, namely
Prashant, Vikas, and Himanshu and spoke at length to the members of the
family. The Place of Occurrence, that is, the Sammelan Market in Aashiaanaa
Nagar was also inspected. The team also went to the Shastrinagar P.S.
the same day although the necessary papers were collected on a later date.
The following documents were examined:
- The three FIRs
filed by Mukesh Kumar, brother of one of the deceased Vikas Ranjan;
Kamlesh Kumar Gautam, the booth owner whose shop was allegedly being
looted; and Shamse Alam, the SI and in-charge of Shastrinagar P.S. who
led the team which was responsible for encounter.
- The postmortem
reports of the three youths killed (Nos. 1849, 1850, and 1851 dated
29.12.2002 issued by Patna Medical College.)
Besides, news items
appearing in the newspapers were also perused by the members of the enquiry
team. Attempt was made to contact the Senior Superintendent of Police,
Patna but it did not materialize because of his prior occupation with
arrangements being made for the Bandh Call given by some political parties.
Given the reticence on the part of the police it was thought unnecessary
to delay the finalization of report on that account. A CID probe was ordered
on the date of occurrence itself and now the government has announced
that the CBI with hold an enquiry into the incident.
Broadly speaking there are two version of the incident, one given by the
members of the families of the victims and the other given by the police
and the booth owner. Ignoring the minor differences among different narrations,
the incident can be reconstructed as given below:
A. First Version: Prashant Singh, Vikas Ranjan,
and Himanshu picked up some quarrel with a telephone booth owner Kamalesh
Kumar Gautam in the Sammelan Market on the question of excess billing
for a call made by them. It seems that they were roughed up by the booth
owner, may be along with some other persons in his support. The three
boys threatened him of settling scores. After half an hour or so, they
went back to the booth along with some other people of the locality. Meanwhile,
the booth owner had mobilized other shopkeepers in and around Sammelan
As soon as they came
to the market, these persons presumably attacked them. If some others
were accompanying the three youths they fled from the scene, while these
three were trapped inside as the gate at the opening of the market was
closed. While they were being beaten up, the booth owner contacted a policeman
attached with Digha PS who was known to him and whose name is reported
to be Abhay Kumar. Abhay Kumar apparently rushed to the market and simultaneously
flashed an information to the police stations in Shastrinagar and Digha.
Within no time the police vehicles from both the police stations had reached
the spot. Allegedly the police allowed the beating to go on and eventually
shot the three boys dead from a point blank range.
B. Second Version: A group of armed criminals
were committing dacoity in the Sammelan Market at about 4 PM. SI, Shamse
Alam learnt about it when he reached that area along with Shastrinagar
PS mobile no. 2. He rushed to the spot at once and on reaching there his
team was fired upon. Even after being asked to surrender when the dacoits
did not respond he fired seven rounds injuring three of them. As soon
as the crowd saw them falling, they rushed forward and killed all three
of them by beating them with lathis, rods and stones. Arms and ammunitions
were also found on the dead bodies of the criminals along with some cash
and Reliance coupons. Alam learnt later that they had looted a sum of
Rs. 55000/- plus some coupon from the STD booth. Some of the criminals
had fled from the scene while three of them lingered on in order to loot
the billing machine.
According to Alam he tried to save the three criminals from the wrath
of the violent mob but failed because of their numbers and aggressive
mood. Hence he filed an FIR charging a thousand strong crowd of unknown
persons u/s 304 of IPC.
Of the two versions the enquiry team is of the view that the first one
is by and large true, even if some details are not very clear. The police
version is totally fabricated and untrue.
The reason for
arriving at this conclusion are numerous:
- To begin with,
not only the families of the victims, but whosoever the team met around
Sammelan Market or in the locality of Aashiaanaa Nagar either pleaded
ignorance about the actual incident or corroborated the first version.
- Almost everyone
the team spoke to informed that the police had actually cordoned off
that area. The question of the public itself committing the violence
as alleged in the FIR lodged by Shamse Alam is malicious, misleading
and a travesty of truth.
- All three victims
were shot from a close range and generally bullets exited from
the bodies rather than getting lodged. The wounds of entry found to
be of 1/4 "or 1/2" diameter and with 'blackening charge' on
each body. Other doctors who saw post mortem report confirmed the firing
from point blank range. The examination of reports rules out the possibility
of firing from a distance in an encounter with the victims allegedly
carrying arms. Further the reports clearly record that the injuries
that were caused by fire arms (two each on the bodies of Prashant Singh
and Himanshu Kumar and one on the body of Vikas Ranjan) were 'grievous
and dangerous to life in ordinary course of nature.' Further, it may
be noted that neither the police, nor the shopkeepers received any injury
from the alleged indiscriminate firing of the three youths.
- It seems unlikely
that the victims would keep lingering on inside the grilled entrance
of a market merely to loot the billing machine even when a thousand
strong has assembled around the market as has been alleged in the FIR
of Shamse Alam. The FIR has been written with a clear intent of making
out a case for encounter and there is a crude attempt made to make it
- The fact that
the three boys had gone there in their own vehicles parking there properly
just outside the market also indicates that they were not there with
the intention of loot.
- Finally, the three
victims had no criminal background which was confirmed by all people
who knew them directly or indirectly.
Prashant Singh S/o Laxman Singh was short listed for commercial diving
course of Indian Naval Diving School, Kochi and was due to appear at
a test on 6''' January 2003. He was due to leave for Kochi on 2nd January
and had a ticket reservation for the same. Ironically he had gone to
the Shastrinagar P.S, and met the same Shamse Alam along with his father
for a police verification at about 2 pm. the same afternoon. Alam had
referred them to the Munshi.
Vikas Ranjan S/o Jagdish Prasad Gupta, the owner of Manbhawan Sweets
on Aashiaanaa More was known to be an active social worker in the locality.
For the martyrs of Kargil he is reported to have collected donation
amounting to Rupees twenty one thousand which was made over by him to
the Governor. He had done a course in hardware engineering at Beltron
Kumar S/o Late Surendra Prasad Yadav was a bright student doing B.Sc.
(IT) from Zakir Hussain institute. The team met some of his friends
who confirmed that Himanshu was a sincere student. At his home also
the team saw the computer which he used to work. There is no grain of
evidence regarding inclination to crime.
There is not an iota of doubt in the minds of the members of team that
this is a case of fake encounter. In fact, the entire locality knows about
it. At best there can be debates about who actually killed the three boys
as the owner of booth and his friend in the Digha police station, Abhay
Kumar are among the suspects. But Shamse Alam, on his own admission in
the FIR fired seven rounds from his service revolver, so his role is obvious
and beyond doubt. He may have allowed the victims to be beaten up brutally,
as alleged in the FIR lodged by Mukesh Kumar, brother of one of the deceased,
before he killed them with his own revolver. It was a brutal cold blooded
murder committed in the market place by the local Thaanaa incharge who
is responsible for the safely of everyone in the jurisdiction of the police
It was such a blatant and shameless act that the public outrage against
it was quite natural. That there should be a widespread spontaneous protest
against the killing is again a proof of the innocence of the three youths
and the crime of the police contingent.
Possible cause of occurrence
While this incident reflects the lack of responsibility and the brutalisation
of the police force, the possible motive behind the murder is difficult
to unravel. However there are certain possibilities which have been suggested
(i) There are cases in which due to mistaken
identity, some innocent persons are killed. Here two comments seem necessary.
First, even when a known criminal is killed, the killing in a fake encounter
is nothing short of murder and must be condemned in no uncertain terms.
The issue that the
person killed is innocent or a criminal is of no consequence from the
legal or human rights angle. Secondly, in the present case by no means
it was a case of mistaken identity. No doubt that the killers claimed
initially that they have killed two notorious criminals, namely, Ashok
and Natwa and gave the same information to the media. But given the entire
circumstances it is ruled out by our team that they had mistaken the identity.
Many people in the crowd gathered outside the Sammelan Market also knew
the identity of those being killed and they had informed the family of
Vikas Ranjan. It cannot be accepted that the police had actually taken
them to be Ashok and Natwa.
(ii) Some newspapers have suggested that
it is the greed and pursuit of gallantry award which has been the reason
behind many fake encounters and could be so in this case. A gallantry
award winner is entitled to several privileges including free travel in
the railways. He may get a promotion out of turn. Shamse Alam was in charge
of Shastrinagar PS even as he was an SI, while usually this P.S. remains
under the charge of an inspector level police official. Hence this explanation
for the act of Alam has considerable merit.
(iii) Bribe can be a third possible motive
behind the crime which cannot be ruled out. There is a possibility that
before the arrival of police the three boys were beaten up badly by the
booth owner and his accomplices. There is an added possibility that someone
among them was shot dead by them or by the policeman who is a friend of
the booth owner after which it was thought safe to eliminate all three
- Shamse Alam, SI
and the then in-charge Shastrinagar PS should be prosecuted under relevant
sections of IPC including 302. The charge sheet should be filed after
an early investigation at sufficiently high and credible level and trial
should commence without delay. Other accomplices including Kamalesh
Kumar Gautam and the entire police party should be charged under relevant
- The needle of
suspicion points towards Abhay Kumar SI Digha PS. As the prime mover
specially for mobilizing police support. The nature and extent of his
role should be carefully investigated and consequently suitable criminal
case filed against him.
- Departmental proceedings
should be started against these and other police functionaries who had
a direct role to play. Some functionaries at the higher level including
the DSP of Sachivalaya Ajit Kumar Sinha were trying to cover the crime.
They also ought to be punished suitably.
- False encounters
are becoming routine and common. This is a dangerous trend which needs
to be checked. This needs to be looked into in an open manner by an
independent body of persons which should include among others members
of government as well as human rights activists.
This case of innocent persons being killed by Bihar Police and subsequently
declaring it to be an encounter is not an isolated case. Just a few days
before this incident, at Manjhaul in Begusarai district an SDPO Maheshwar
Mahto allegedly killed two persons of a barat party taking them to be
terrorists (in fact another PUCL team has confirmed that it was again
a case of fake encounter). Some years back there was a case of killing
of three persons in the Pahari locality under Agamkuan PS which was claimed
to be an encounter. The case became controversial and subsequently a CBI
probe was ordered. Barachatti encounter had also similarly made the headlines.
The killing of Anand
Pandey, son of a noted littérateur Manager Pandey was also widely
reported in the press. But these are but a few cases which somehow come
in public notice. Actually such encounters are taking place with disturbing
frequency nowadays and further, in many cases some kind of public endorsement
is also noticeable, which is in deed an extremely disconcerting fact.
A similar phenomenon is the lynching of criminals by the public, which
is taking place quite often in the countryside of Bihar and sometimes
in the towns too.
There are plausible reasons behind the public sometimes endorsing even
false encounter or indulging in brutal acts like lynching. The likelihood
of criminals actually being convicted and punished has became so small
that some people would prefer a summary punishment of this kind.
But it has to be recognized
and appreciated that this is not only savage and illegal, but is rought
with great dangers. If killing of criminals by police is tacitly accepted,
the obvious fall-out will be killing of innocent persons, as it happened
in the recent case. It is imperative that on one hand such brutalisation,
is arrested through public education and on the other hand, the entire
process of criminal administration is streamlined and made effective.
Police force cannot be dispensed with but they cannot be allowed to take
law in their hands. This tendency can be curbed by making the system effective
and at the same time, the erring officials who either default in their
duties or act in violation of laws.
There is noticeable tendency in the police department (often extending
to the general administration as well) to try to cover the guilt or inefficiency
of the machinery. The public faith in the system has got so much eroded
that their version is taken with a pinch of salt. Often they are suspected
to be having nexus with criminals, politicians usually forming the third
corner of the triangle. In the present case also, until the public fury
was noticed by the police personnel, there was an endorsement of the version
of Shamse Alam. The members of the family further alleged that even in
the process of post-mortem, some interference was attempted.
The charge may be
false, yet it reveals the lack of faith in the system which should compel
the persons in power to introspect. At least one thing is obvious - despite
an assurance given to the families by ADG himself, there was an inexplicable
delay in conducting the post-mortem.
3. The callousness
of the police machinery is proverbial but in cases like the present one
it shocks the conscience. How can someone kill in cold blood three young
boys in their prime so brutally? In what manner, the mind of such a killer
operates? Has it been taken over or guided by instincts which are apparently
criminal? While the entire locality had learnt about the identity of boys
killed, the police continued to call them unknown criminals.
Even on the next
day, much after a proper identification of the bodies, the policemen declared
them to be unknown. It appears that functioning of the police system is
totally dehumanized and if so, what hope of justice and fair play we can
have from such a force. It is time that policy makers take notice of the
crisis prevailing there and initiate urgent action