The Allahabad High Court on Thursday commuted the life imprisonment sentences of 43 Uttar Pradesh police officers who were found guilty in a fake encounter to seven years of rigorous imprisonment.
The HC order came in an appeal filed by the convicted men against a 2016 CBI court order that sentenced 47 cops for the extra-judicial killing of 10 men.
Four of the convicted police officers have died and on Thursday the HC commuted the sentences of the remaining 43 to seven years.
1991 Pilibhit fake encounter
The cops were found guilty of killing ten Sikh men kidnapped and shot dead, claiming they were Khalistani terrorists.
According to the police version of the events, on the intervening night of 12-13 July 1991, three incidents at three different places — Neoria, Bilsanda, and Puranpur, in District Pilibhit took place between Sikh terrorists and the police of district Pilibhit, in which ten alleged militants were killed.
In this regard, 13 FIRs were lodged in police stations Neoria, Bilsanda and Puranpur of district Pilibhit.
What the CBI found
However, later a CBI investigation revealed that the men were taken away by the cops from a Pilibhit-bound bus carrying Sikh pilgrims, who were then divided into three groups and taken to different places where they were shot dead at night.
The CBI, which termed the killings cold-blooded murder, said the cops had staged the encounter to earn awards and recognition for killing “terrorists”.
Killed in a fake encounter
The Allahabad HC bench of Justice Ramesh Singh and Justice Saroj Yadav sentenced all the culprits to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment under IPC 304 with a fine of Rs 10,000, setting off a trial court’s ruling of life imprisonment for the appellants.
“The trial Court believed on coming to the conclusion that ten Sikh youths were killed in a fake encounter after being kidnapped from the pilgrims’ bus by the police personnel/appellants,” read the trial court’s order.
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Cops exceeded their powers
The judgement from the High Court stressed that the alleged terrorists could have been arrested and put to trial.
“It is not the duty of the police officers to kill the accused merely because he/she is a dreaded criminal. Undoubtedly, the police have to arrest the accused and put them up for a trial,” the court noted.
The court also highlighted that the said case did fall under 304 IPC i.e. culpable homicide.
“No doubt, appellants exceeded the powers given to them by law, and they caused the death of the deceased by doing an act which they, in good faith, believed to be lawful and necessary for the due discharge of their duty. In such circumstances, the offence that was committed by the appellants, was culpable homicide not amounting to murder punishable under Section 304 of I.P.C,” the court added.
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