Thursday, July 23, 2009

Delhi Police gets a clean chit in the Batla House case

In the fight with terrorism, there is a thin line between what is justified for national security and what is a violation of human rights. Sometimes, this gets muddled up. An example is when sometime back, the UP police were shown to be shooting down a dacoit when he was coming out with hands in the air. There was a lot of protests and condemnation over the way the police shot him in cold blood. It was only when a second video was released (which showed that the dacoit had earlier offered to give himself up, but had shot the policeman who went to accept the surrender) that the reputation of the police was restored. In many cases, the police and security agencies have been accused of detaining suspects without proper records, and subjecting them to torture to get information. A law and order approach is that the police should document their arrest, and file for detention in front of the court.
One case that caused a huge amount of controversy was the Batla House case. In this case, the national capital got the news, that in a locality in South East Delhi, the police had raided a house and killed some suspects in a shootout, and in the encounter, a celebrated cop had also got killed. This was in the aftermath of the Indian Mujhaideen cases where serial bomb blasts were happening in various cities, and the Government was under huge pressure to show some progress in the case. Almost immediately, there was suspicion that this was a cooked up encounter, with certain aspects of the case causing questions.
Politicians of different hues jumped on the case, given that it involved police vs. minority issues, with even ruling party politicians jumping in to get the case investigated by all manner of agencies. The Delhi and Central Governments however stood firm on the stand that this was a genuine encounter, and the people killed were actually terrorists. Finally, in a court case, the High Court ordered an investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (something that the police still opposed). In what marks almost an end to the case, the NHRC has declared that the encounter was genuine (link to article):
National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday gave clean chit to Delhi police in Batla House encounter case. "We are clearly of the opinion that having regard to the material placed before us, it cannot be said that there has been any violation of human rights by action of the police", the NHRC said in its 30 page report on the encounter in September last year.
Encounter specialist Delhi Police Inspector M C Sharma was killed during the police action against suspected terrorists on September 19, 2008 in the aftermath of serial blasts in Batla House locality in the national capital. The court had directed the enquiry on a plea of the NGO, Act Now For Harmony and Democracy, that questioned the police version of the encounter. Two suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists who were killed were identified as Atif Amin and Mohd Sajid. Two other IM suspects Mohd Saif and Zeeshan were arrested from the Batla House area.

This is certainly not the end of the controversy, since there was a report that some politicians and family members of the accused did not accept this report, claiming it to be false. However, the general public, which anyhow forgets things easily enough, will not remember the Batla House encounter for much longer.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:46 AM