Encounter killings

Dismal record

Print edition : November 25, 2016
The rising numbers of allegations of fake encounters and complaints against police personnel are a blot on India's human rights record.

With the “encounter killing” of eight alleged terrorists belonging to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in Madhya Pradesh and about 25 “suspected” Maoists in Odisha, the state of human rights and civil liberties under the current dispensation in the country is once again under the microscope. Statistics from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) show that the situation has been escalating from bad to worse in recent years. The number of cases registered annually by the NHRC has been rising in the past seven years; it went up from 90,946 in 2008-09 to 1,05,664 in 2015-16. While reflecting a growing confidence in the commission, these figures also sadly indicate that there has been no respite in the trend of violations.

A report released in October by H.L. Dattu, former Chief Justice of India and NHRC Chairman, showed that between October 2015 and September 2016, the NHRC registered 32,498 complaints against the police for human rights violations, of which 206 involved encounters. Chhattisgarh topped the list of encounter killings with 66 cases, followed by Assam (43), Jharkhand (15) and Odisha (10). West Bengal topped the list of registered cases of encounter involving paramilitary forces with 11 cases, while Uttar Pradesh topped the list of deaths in judicial custody (401) and deaths in police custody (27).

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed that complaints of violations against police personnel rose from 47,774 in 2014 to 54,916 in 2015, a growth of 15 per cent, although about 20,000 cases in both years were declared false or unsubstantiated. While the number of inquiries instituted to look into these complaints is significant, the number of cases actually registered has been quite low over the past five years. The number of cases sent for trial has recorded a remarkable jump from 913 in 2011 to 4,367 in 2015. The rate of conviction of police personnel remained extremely low (47 in 2011 and 25 in 2015), given that more than 1,000 personnel were sent for trial in all five years.

Delhi topped the States in the number of complaints received against police personnel in 2015, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala.


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