PUCL, July 2003

PUCL (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry)

July 28, 2003

Impartial, complete and independent investigation necessary into killing of Veeramani and similar encounters

-- By V. Suresh, General Secretary

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry) is dismayed by news of the recent shooting of K. Veeramani at Ayodhyakuppam. We wish to stress that, regardless of the circumstances, the police in our country have no license to kill. Every encounter death has to be investigated as a possible case of culpable homicide or, potentially, murder. The police are covered by same laws as the rest of us, and there is no law that gives the government the right to dispense with investigation, trial or punishment simply because the police claim to have fired in self-defense.

Further, the killing of Veeramani is only the latest in a long string of recent encounter deaths that have occurred in Chennai and in Tamil Nadu. At least seventeen other people have been killed in this fashion in the last two and a half years, nine of them since last November. In each case the police come out with various justifications for their actions. These are then used as a pretext to close the case, even when – as in this case – the police story is highly unconvincing.

This is a blatant abuse of government power. The government and the police seem to believe that they are above the law. Both the National Human Rights Commission and the Andhra Pradesh High Court (K.G. Kannabiran v. Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh, 1997) have very clearly stated that encounter deaths have to be investigated as offences of culpable homicide. If indeed the police fired in self-defence, they are free to establish that at their trial. They cannot escape trial and investigation simply on the basis of their own claims.

We therefore call upon the government to immediately comply with the 1997 guidelines issued by the National Human Rights Commission, and specifically to:

  • Register cases of culpable homicide against all police officials involved in encounter killings;
  • Initiate investigations against the concerned police officials and hand over these investigations to the CBI or other independent investigating agencies;
  • Prosecute those police officials whom the investigation finds to have committed crimes.

We also call upon all citizens to support this demand. We stress repeatedly that the issue is not the guilt or innocence of the person killed or their alleged crimes. The issue is that, in a democracy, the police have to be held to the same rules and the same laws as the rest of us. If we do otherwise, we are opening the doors for a police state – and soon we will find that there are no rules or laws left at all.

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