LUCKNOW: Observing that it was not the duty of the police to kill an accused merely because one was a dreaded criminal, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court on Thursday convicted 43 cops in the 1991 Pilibhit encounter case in which 10 Sikhs were shot in a fake encounter.
The bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Saroj Yadav, however, set aside the 2016 order of the Lucknow CBI court which had conviction the accused for murder, and held all the 43 accused guilty under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC.
Deciding the appeals of 43 cops, the bench said, “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 trial.”
‘Offence, committed by appellants, was culpable homicide not amounting to murder’
Delivering the verdict, the bench observed, “In the present case, there was no ill-will between the appellants – police personnel – and the deceased persons. The appellants were public servants, and their object was the advancement of public justice. 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.”
The bench observed, “The case of the appellants is covered under Exception 3 to the section 303 of IPC, which provides that culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, being a public servant, or aiding a public servant acting for the advancement of public justice, exceeds the powers given to him by law, and causes death by doing an act which he, in good faith, thinks to be lawful and necessary for the due discharge of his duty as a public servant without ill-will towards the person whose death he has caused.”
The CBI court had on April 4, 2016, convicted 47 cops and sentenced them with life imprisonment. They filed appeals against their conviction. During pendency of appeals, four cops died.
On July 12, 1991, the policemen had stopped a luxury bus filled with Sikh pilgrims and forced 10 passengers to get off. The charge sheet of the case said they were divided into groups, taken to different areas in a jungle and killed in “cold blood”. The policemen claimed the next day that 10 Khalistani terrorists had been killed. The accused cops said that they intercepted the the bus on the basis of confidential police reports, intercepted a bus carrying passengers/pilgrimage believing that there were some hardcore terrorists of ‘Khalistan Liberation Front’ present in the bus.
The trial court, in April 2016 concluded the trial in the matter by holding that the appellants, while committing criminal conspiracy, abducted ten Sikh youths and killed them in a fake encounter and thereafter prepared a number of documents in order to convert the killings of these Sikhs into encounters.
The case dates back to 1991 when the state’s Terai region witnessed a surge in militancy-related incidents. The CBI investigated the case on the orders of the Supreme Court and said the motive behind the killings was to earn awards and recognition for killing “terrorists”.
“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 claim of the appellants that they killed ten terrorist persons in self-defense does not corroborate with the medical evidence.”
“The prosecution failed to prove the facts that the police personnel had kidnapped or abducted 10-11 Sikh persons and after that by making criminal conspiracy with common intention, bifurcated them in three groups and killed them at three separate places.”
“The act of the appellants in eliminating the terrorists who were involved in various criminal cases of murder, loot, TADA activities as has been demonstrated from the criminal antecedents of some of the deceased but the appellants have failed to lead any defence against the other deceased whether they were also involved in terrorist activities…”
“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…”





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