Encounter Killings – UPSC Ethics

Do you think “encounter killings” are ethical? Critically comment. (200 Words)

The term “ethical” is a complex and vague term and it change with the change in perception. So we are not able to come with the generalized judgement about whether encounter is ethical or unethical. And it depends on the context of situation that leads to encounter. Let’s analyse those situation
Where encounter is ethical
  1. Act of self defence – According to sections 96 to 106 of IPC pertaining to self defence, Law says that even a common man can kill someone in the act of self defence. If it is ethical for a common man to do so, It’s even more ethical for Police personnel to encounter a criminal if not doing so, could cause a genuine life threatening situation.
  2. Threats to national security – In those occasions, encounter is only practical option and it is completely ethical as it is the matter of national pride. For e.g.: encountering of terrorist involved in 26/11 and recent encounters in Myanmar by our army.
  3. In account of potential great loss to state – there are some situation where the only way to stop criminal from doing crime is killing them as they are so powerful that nearing them would cause a life loss of police personnel’s. For e.g.: Killing of Veerappan by Tamil Nadu Special Task Force in operation “Cocoon”.
Where encounter is unethical.
Fake encounters – But unfortunately there are some fake encounters happening too as in Ishrat Jahan encounter case in which CBI court issued arrest warrants against many police officials. The fake encounters are done for complete personal gains and it is completely unethical. In those situation, it is essential to punish those officials legally.
To prevent unethical and fake encounters, SC made following of some procedures after encounter taken place as compulsory. They are:
  1. FIRs must be registered in all police encounter cases.
  2. An independent inquiry should be held in all police shooting case by CID or police station other than the one involved in it.
  3. Officer would not get promotion until it is proven that the encounter is genuine.
Since there are lot of procedures to be followed after encounter to ascertain that it is not fake, it is best to left to the law enforce agency to decide of whether encounter is ethical or unethical, warranted or unwarranted in context of particular situation.
 “The menace of encounter killings or extrajudicial killings is largely attributable to the Supreme Court’s failure to enunciate clear procedural guidelines for reporting and investigating extrajudicial killings.” Critically discuss. (200 Words)
Extrajudicial Killings has become a common phenomenon in the country’s criminal justice system. Police administration is largely responsible for such activities and with political nexus at times. Law enforcement officers must be held responsible to such acts as it is in their ambit to produce the accused, evidence etc. in the court for prosecution. There are enough laws and clear procedural guidelines for reporting and investigation of killings. Also it is on part of the Police administration which must be given training on grounds of moral and ethical perspectives. Mere creation of procedural guidelines cannot stop such killings as the main need is to see the incidents in human aspect.
It is government which is controlling the police administration must take stringent action against such killings. From probe, investigation, evidence, clear facts etc. the process is not being followed religiously by the Investigating officers as well. Also on part of Supreme Court, there is a need to make the process more stringent but that is not the outright solution. It is a clear coordination between government, Police Administration and SC directives on investigation and reporting procedure together which can make Criminal Justice system an effective way of handling crisis like Extra judicial killings.
In India, in the past there have been instances of fake encounters by police targeting suspected terrorists and extremists. In your opinion, why a civil servant resorts to such crime? What values are compromised in such acts? How should they be trained to prevent such acts? Discuss (200 Words)
Why a civil servant resort to crimes like fake encounters of suspected terrorists or extremists:
  1. Vengeance : Take revenge from extremists or militants who target her/his family members or innocent civilians.
  2. Self-Interest : like for promotions in service or claiming rewards.
  3. Heroic Action : To show a personality cult & to gain popularity among the citizens.
  4. Political pressure, ideological hatred, vested interests and sometimes frustration in dealing with hardened free criminals while staying within the ambit of the law.
Values which are compromised in such acts are:
  1. Constitutional : Values such as Rule of law, Equality before law, fair trail to the suspected.
  2. Virtue Ethics : One of its cardinal value – Justice – is compromised here as suspect is denied to prove her/his case.
  3. Utilitarianism : If the suspect was sole bread earner for her/his family then injustice is done to the whole family.
  4. Professional ethics : to follow the seniors order may be compromised if it is ignored.
  5. Disproportionate punishment : Killing a person for any criminal act seems unjustifiable.
  6. Trust of the public, natural justice, duty ethics, violation of Human and Constitutional rights, values ingrained by training and oath to the service as well.
What should be done to prevent above:
  1. Accountability : Fixing accountability of the police officers or security forces which will end the culture of impunity hitherto enjoyed by them.
  2. Code of Conduct : It can be provisioned in CoC that resorted to encounter must be done when all other options are exhausted to capture the criminal alive.
  3. Sensitization with rights of the victim, zero tolerance, awareness about Supreme Court guidelines on extra judicial killings, confidence building exercises, community policing, etc..



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