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Serial killing'

Published : Aug 27, 2010 00:00 IST


Moily:  Centre's position will help uphold the rule of law.-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Moily: Centre's position will help uphold the rule of law.-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Interview with M. Veerappa Moily, Law Minister.

M. VEERAPPA MOILY, Union Minister for Law, is of the view that the fake encounter in which Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed should not be seen as an encounter killing of the kind that is reported every now and then. He believes that existing laws are sufficient to tackle such aberrations in the law and order machinery. Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline.

The revelations in the Sohrabuddin case have once again highlighted the issue of encounter killings. How does the Union Law Ministry look at these developments?

What happened in Gujarat cannot be seen as part of, or clubbed with, the encounter killings that are reported time and again from different parts of the country. This is nothing short of serial killing. If you analyse the evidence that is coming out, what you see is planned serial killing using official and political machinery.

First, there is the encounter killing, then there is the encounter killing of the witnesses, and even the wife of the victim is done away with. It points towards a state of absolute absence of the rule of law. I can understand law and order officials killing an attacker in self-defence in an encounter. I can understand conflict situations leading to encounter killings. But this type of serial killing is shocking.

There is an argument that the rule of law is a means to an end and that in the context of jurisprudential principles such as salus populi est suprema lex (the people's welfare is the supreme law) and salus res publica est suprema lex (the safety of the nation is supreme law) such measures may have to be taken. The argument goes that Sohrabuddin was a well-known criminal who was wanted in many cases and that given the inconsistencies of our law and order machinery and the judiciary, this line of action was justified.

Now, who is saying this? Is it being formally advanced as part of a legal defence? I do not think any government or any law-abiding citizen could come up with an argument like this. When the Administrative Reforms Commission [ARC] looked into issues relating to terrorism, it stated categorically that there was the need to define more clearly those criminal acts that can be construed as being terrorist. The parameters of this definition were also suggested by the ARC and these included terms like use of firearms, explosives or any other lethal substances that cause or are likely to cause damage to life and property and essential infrastructure; assassination of or attempt thereof of public functionaries; detention of any person or threat to kill or injure any person to force the government to act or abstain from acting in a particular manner; and providing or facilitating material support, including finances, for the aforesaid activities. Even here the rule of law is the primary principle.

There is also the argument that the Congress is using the CBI for witch hunt.

Here is an investigation that is being monitored by the Supreme Court and is being carried out by the CBI under its directions. The Centre has no role at all in this. And if the Congress wanted a witch hunt, why should it wait for all these years? We have been in government since 2004 and the current revelations have come out in 2010.

When it comes to the guidelines formulated by the NHRC in relation to encounter killings, it is evident that both the Union and State governments seem to have the same view. They are not ready to accept zero tolerance of encounter killings as the guiding principle. Moreover, many States ruled by the Congress, such as Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, have a very high incidence fake encounter killings.

I have not gone through the recommendations of the NHRC or the response of the State governments. Hence, I cannot comment. I will only add that the Centre's position will help uphold the rule of law.

There is an opinion that an FIR followed by a parallel charge sheet should be filed against erring police officers when there are allegations of encounter killings.

No such suggestion has come up before the Law Ministry. The government will consider such a proposal as and when it comes before it. My opinion is that there is no need for any fresh legislation on this count. Existing laws are sufficient to control extrajudicial killings.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Aug 27, 2010.)



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