September 18, 2009
Govt must set up independent probe
by Prashant Bhushan
THE National Human Rights Commission’s ( NHRC) clean chit to the Delhi Police in the controversial Batla House ‘encounter’ has not allayed the fears in the minds of people. Many still doubt the police version of what happened on September 19 last year.
Unless a credible judicial investigation is conducted and the public gets to know the truth, the ‘encounter’ will come to symbolise the erosion of confidence, particularly of Muslims, in the judicial system.
Despite NHRC guidelines demanding an independent investigation or magisterial inquiry into any encounter killing, such a probe hasn’t been carried out. In this scenario, the inquiry is critical because of police and media attempt to demonise Azamgarh and Jamia Nagar as a den of terrorists.
An independent inquiry will restore people’s confidence. Unfortunately, the government still doesnÂ’t believe it is needed. The NHRC, which was compelled to conduct a probe under the direction of the Delhi High Court, relied on a police report to give a clean chit to Delhi Police’s Special Cell, which carried out the ‘encounter’. It did not even bother to talk to Saif, the boy arrested from Batla House and the only non- police witness to the ‘encounter’. Even the building’s residents were not asked what happened.
A report by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Jamia Teachers Association, the Delhi Union of Journalists and the social organisation Jan Hastakshep raised some serious questions about the police version. The NHRC, unfortunately, did not bother to answer any of them. The first query was about 17- year- old Sajid who was killed in the ‘shootout’. The NHRC did not explain how Sajid could have had four bullet holes on the top of his head unless he was made to sit down and shot from above by the encounter team.
It also did not explain how the skin on the back of Atif Ameen (also killed during the Â‘ encounterÂ’) got peeled off. The injuries on the bodies of the boys suggested they were tortured before being killed — but the NHRC has remained mum on the issue. Another important question is how two ‘terrorists’ managed to escape from the flat when its only entrance was heavily guarded.
Lastly, if there is nothing suspicious about the shootout, why are cops so reluctant to make public the autopsy reports of Sajid, Atif and Special Cell inspector M. C. Sharma, who was also killed in the ‘encounter’? A petition asking the police to do so is pending before the Central Information Commission.
Prashant Bhushan, an eminent lawyer, spoke to Praveen Kumar