Talking tough on the incidents of police atrocities, the Supreme Court has asked the judiciary to step into and take stern action against the erring cops if any material suggests their complicity in such inhuman practices and suspicious deaths.
It said the courts are empowered to pass unconventional orders to deal with extraordinary situations. The court said it is the duty of the state to protect human rights activist while dismissing the appeals of the police personnel of Punjab who were convicted for abducting and killing of a human rights activist in the state.
"In a given case if there is some material on record to reveal the police atrocities, the court must take stern action against the erring police officials in accordance with law," said a bench comprising Jusitce P Sathasivam and Justice BS Chauhan in its judgement on Friday.
The bench said, "Law requires for adoption of a realistic approach rather than narrow technical approach in cases of custodial crimes." Justice Chauhan, writing the judgement for the bench, said, "Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary remedies.
While dealing with an unprecedented case, the court has to innovate the law and may also pass unconventional order keeping in mind that extraordinary situation requires extraordinary measures" . The apex court said, "The obligation requires the state to take administrative and all other measures in order to protect life and investigate all suspicious deaths," adding, "Police atrocities in India had always been a subject matter of controversy and debate.
It said, "the wrong-doer is accountable and the state is responsible if a person in custody of the police is deprived of his life except in accordance with the procedure established by law" adding, "in view of the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution , any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is inhibited.
Torture is not permissible whether it occurs during investigation, interrogation or otherwise". The apex court also perused the 113th report of the Law Commission recommending for the amendment to the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to provide that in case of custodial injuries, if there is evidence, the court may presume that injury was caused by the police having the custody of that person during that period. Onus to prove contrary is on the police authorities.
However, in absence of any research , a general remark that a 'substantial majority of the population in the country consider the police force as an institution which violates human rights' cannot be accepted, the court said.
The apex court upheld the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had enhanced the sentence awarded to four cops to life imprisonment along with two other policemen who were given life term by the trial court in Patiala.
They had abducted and killed human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra in 1995 for exposing police attrocities on innocent citizens in Amritsar and Taran Taran. The case was later transferred to the CBI.