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
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 doesn’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
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 ‘ encounter’) 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