UP police now feel free to misuse power to settle scores with people: NHRC

In a stinging criticism of Yogi Adityanath government over ‘encounters, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday said policemen in Uttar Pradesh now feel free to misuse their power to “settle scores with people” following an “undeclared endorsement” from higher-ups.

The NHRC’s strong words came after it issued a notice to UP government and police following reports about a Sub Inspector opening fire at a 25-year-old gym instructor and telling his colleague that the “encounter” would earn him an out of turn promotion. The incident that took place on Saturday night rocked Rajya Sabha on Monday leading to washing out of the morning session.

With UP witnessing over 900 encounters in which 31 were killed after Adityanath government assumed power in March last year, the NHRC has asked the UP Chief Secretary and Director General of Police to look into the “emerging scenario, personally and to take appropriate action to sensitise the police personnel not to abuse their power to harass the innocent citizens”. Six weeks time have been given them to submit the report.

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While Noida Police has denied receiving any message on the encounter in the gym instructor case, the NHRC said, “it seems that police personnel in Uttar Pradesh are feeling free, misusing their power in the light of an undeclared endorsement given by the higher ups.”

“They are using their privileges to settle scores with the people. The police force is to protect the people, these kind of incidents would send a wrong message to the society. Creating an atmosphere of fear is not the correct way to deal with the crime. In this particular case, the injured man is not an offender. He was travelling with his friends when the rowdy act done by the delinquent SI has gravely violated his right to life and liberty,” it said.

It said this indicate that the policeman acted in “unruly manner having no fear or respect for the law” and this is one of the incidents in sequence of several police encounters occurred in the state.

This is not the first time the NHRC has raised questions about encounters in the state. Quoting Adityanath’s remarks that “criminals will be jailed or killed in encounters”, the NHRC had on 22 November, 2017 said even if the law and order situation is grave, the state cannot resort to such mechanism, which may result in the extra judicial killings of the alleged criminals.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 6, 2018)

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