"However, it is not okay to stage encounters. But even they do happen, and should not," says the former Punjab police chief.
Bhavna Vij-Aurora interviews K.P.S. Gill
The man largely credited with crushing militancy in Punjab, K.P.S. Gill is a strong advocate of a proactive role for the police in fighting terrorism and organised crime. During his tenure as the Punjab police chief, his officers and men were given a free hand in cracking down on Sikh militants. He talks to Bhavna Vij-Aurora about encounter killings.
How does one explain encounters?
Police officers become totally cynical. There is a sense of disenchantment since
they get to know so much during the course of their professional work. When the
conduct of judges themselves is questionable, the police officers begin to
think, who will implement the laws, who will protect society....
So, they bump off a 'terrorist' because they think he will not be punished by the country's courts..
.No, I am not saying that.
"Mistakes can happen while fighting terror, organised crime. The officer's
motives must be assessed...."
But the criminal justice system has to be strong, quick and effective to deal
with the people arrested. The primary function of the judicial system is to
protect society, not so much to punish criminals. The latter is only one of the
instruments to achieve the former. Everything
boils down to governance,
which includes an effective justice system. All countries have special
legislations to deal with terrorism, mafia and organised crime. In India,
unfortunately, if you have TADA, it is opposed; if you have POTA, it is opposed.
In the West, terrorism cases are decided in months, or at the most in a year or
two. Here, it took the courts 14 years to start reading the prolonged judgement
of the 1993 Bombay bombings
In my experience in policing, I have not come across any police officer who
is trigger-happy, who will kill just for the sake of it. Encounters should
happen, if required. If a terrorist or a criminal fires at the police, one
cannot expect the police personnel not to respond. There are situations when the
police have to open fire in which people may get killed. However, it is not okay
to stage encounters. But even they do happen, and should not.
It is only a few states that have seen encounter specialists. Mumbai
Delhi and now Gujarat. I cannot really say why they have come up
these places. Perhaps because of the prevalent situation and nature of
crime. About hero status, the press has a major role in building them up as
iconic figures. The police have to give a correct picture of the encounter,
the press should report it in a responsible manner.How should one deal
mistaken identity encounters where innocent people are killed by the
fighting militancy and organised crime, mistakes are bound to
happen. Take the
(May 1997) shootout case in Delhi's Connaught Place where two
mistakenly killed by the police; the cops are still facing
trial for it. A
similar thing happened in London after the 7/7 bombings,
when an innocent
Brazilian immigrant, Jean Charles de Menezes, was shot by the
raised a hue and cry over that incident, and the officers
subsequently received promotions and there is no stigma
attached to their
action. It's important that the intentions and motives of
the officers are
correctly assessed in such cases.
The police must be given a free hand to enforce the laws as they stand on
the statute, and should be taken to task if any fake encounters occur. Mistaken
identity encounters are an entirely different matter, and there are laws to deal
It is important that everything does not get politicised. The police
chief—DG or CP, as the case may be—should be allowed to determine whether the
encounter was fake, staged or real. He should be able to stand by his men when
the action has been taken in good faith. It's only if glaring shortcomings are
found that the government should come into the picture and take the perpetrators to task.
From: Outlook India