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SIMI Men Killed in Bhopal Encounter Could Have Gone to Any Lengths: Former Mumbai Top Cop Sivanandan

The controversial encounter of eight SIMI men in Bhopal seems to be an operation done in hurry, former Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) tells CNN-News18’s Smitha Nair in an exclusive interview.

Smitha Nair | CNN-News18smitharnair

Updated:November 4, 2016, 9:20 PM IST
SIMI Men Killed in Bhopal Encounter Could Have Gone to Any Lengths: Former Mumbai Top Cop Sivanandan
The encounter site at the hillocks of Acharpura village in Bhopal district of Madhya Prades (FILE PHOTO: PTI)

The controversial encounter of eight SIMI men in Bhopal seems to be an operation done in hurry, former Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) D Sivanandan tells CNN-News18’s Smitha Nair in an exclusive interview.

Mr Sivanandan, it was in your tenure as Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) that the back of the underworld was broken. Over 200 dreaded criminals and gangsters were killed in encounters. Are there certain circumstances that warrant, mandate extra-judicial killings?

Criminals shooting at police and police retaliating has been happening since the 80s. The first encounter happened in 1982. Criminals were getting emboldened, they were using AK-47s.

In the late 90s, there was a freeze in such that Mumbai Police weren’t taking any action against extortionists who were using the telephone as a weapon to extort money. It was then that these gangsters went on an overdrive and shot so many business people. In 1998, they shot 101 people in 93 incidents, which means every third day they were shooting business people. Business had come to a halt. That does not mean that the encounters were to happen. No. Because the police were frozen, these people got emboldened and they were shooting at police when they went to arrest these people, because of which, using the right of private defence and following the law in its letter and spirit, Mumbai Police carried out operations where detentions were done. For example, 1,500 people were detained in three years. As many as 1,500 weapons were recovered, arrests and convictions happened and also, incidentally, wherever the police were shot, there was retaliatory fire under Section 100 of the IPC, which gives you right of private defence.

They were so emboldened to bring 2,000 AK-47s, 4,000 kg RDX,12,000 hand grenades. I am talking about March 12, 1993. If that is the kind of boldness that brought into play then the police had to defend themselves to defend the citizens. Please remember 101 business people were shot dead in 1998.

How do you view the controversial killing of eight SIMI men in Bhopal?

As a policeman, I want to say that these SIMI men belonged to a banned organisation. Second, they had already committed serious heinous crimes, like bank robbery and other things. They did scale that wall.

When I was in the police, I handled LTTE men escaping from Vellore Jail and hiding themselves in Chembur and Matunga. I had helped Tamil Nadu police arrest six of those dreaded people. Last week, in a Nashik remand home, four children scaled a wall of over 12 feet. A couple of years ago in Nagpur, criminals had similarly escaped by scaling a wall of this height.

It is quite easy for them to climb one up on the other and then use a bedsheet to scale the wall. Many questions are being asked about how they scaled 25-feet wall by using bedsheets. It’s very easy for eight people to stand one on top of the other and use bedsheets to scale the wall.

And before doing that they had killed a head constable equivalent of a jail guard using some weapon. It again goes to show they were desperate.

I am unclear on whether they had weapons or not. I have seen various statements on television. What I can believe though is that these desperados having killed people earlier and having killed one that night could go to any lengths. The police in their innocence had allowed all the villagers (at the encounter site) to surround them, help them and allowed them to shoot videos, which we are now seeing on TV. If the police were that bad, they would’ve taken the villagers off the site. I believe that what the police have done is genuinely an operation in a hurry. They had got information from the villagers. They went there and surrounded these people and whatever happened, happened. Now what kind of weapons they had etc will come out in the NIA investigation or some other agency will carry out the investigation. As and when those details become clear, we will be able to comment.

How have the courts viewed the matter of encounter killings?

Justice Ranjana Desai of the Bombay High Court, in a petition filed in an encounter case in Mumbai, had clearly laid out six steps that need to be followed in case of an encounter. So that should act as a guideline for the police. These are the legal provisions.

What in your opinion is role of public opinion and that of the political executive in encounter killings?

I want to put it very clearly that there is no court of public opinion. There is a law, there is Constitution, there is IPC and there is CrPC. Political executive cannot decide who can be shot and who cannot be shot. Very clearly, it is Section 100 of the IPC which empowers you to defend yourself. In every case, you can’t just go and kill somebody and say you are exercising your right to private defence. There are complicated set of illustrations given and this right of private defence extends to ordinary citizens, not just the police.

I want to make it clear: No political executive can get this done. No police should fall into this trap. Secondly, no circumstances should drive anybody to do such a thing.

It is each case on merit. The merit is described in Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code. No police should get overwhelmed by any environment and do such things. It will boomerang. Police should go by the law and Constitution.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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