Fifty-one people were killed and 139 injured in police action or while in custody from May 2021 to May 2022, the Assam government told the Gauhati high court in an affidavit on Monday while insisting none of them were extra-judicial killings.
The affidavit was filed in connection with lawyer Arif Jwadder's plea in December for an independent investigation into alleged extra-judicial killings. In May, Jwadder filed an affidavit in the court saying no independent inquiry was conducted into circumstances leading to deaths in police action. He sought details of all deaths and investigations into them. The state government's affidavit was in response to Jwadder's allegations.
The government cited records and added that 51 deaths and 139 injuries were reported from 31 districts of the state. It added that 161 First Information Reports (FIRs) have been registered and all these cases were being investigated as per Supreme Court guidelines on deaths due to police action or in custody. "In all incidents where the death occurred, separate FIRs were lodged and independent investigations, as well as magisterial inquiries, were ordered as per provisions of the law.'
The government said the deaths took place in 32 incidents of shootings. It also referred to four cases of "accidental death of accused while they were escaping from police custody". It rejected Jwadder's allegations of extra-judicial killings.
The court heard the case on Tuesday and scheduled the next hearing on July 29 after the summer break
In his petition, Jwadder said the people killed or injured in "fake" police "encounters" were not dreaded criminals and the modus operandi of all such incidents as per the police version has been the same. "It is stated that the alleged accused tried to snatch service revolvers of police personnel and in self-defence police had to retaliate and kill or injure the alleged accused…It can't be the case that all the alleged accused could snatch a service revolver from a trained police officer whose pistols are normally tied to a rope to the waist belt of the officer," Jwadder said in his plea.
It added while the police mentioned alleged attempts to snatch weapons, there was no mention of the accused aiming or firing at police personnel. Also, all the "encounters" took place at night and the victims were unarmed and handcuffed, it said.
The petition requested the high court to seek records of all "encounters" from the government and police and order an independent investigation by an agency such as the Central Bureau of Investigation under its direct supervision. It also sought a judicial inquiry by a high court judge, direction to the government to set up human rights courts in districts, and compensation to families of those killed.
Assam has reported a series of the so-called encounters since May last year following chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's directions to the police to get strict with criminals and even shoot them on their legs if they try to flee from custody or attack policemen.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, one civilian was killed in police action in Assam in 2020, five in 2019, none in 2018, and five in 2017.