In a significant order, the Allahabad High Court has denied bail to 34 constables of the Pradeshik Armed Constabulary (PAC) who have been accused of killing 10 Sikh men in an alleged fake encounter in 1991, treating them as terrorists.
The bench of Justices Ramesh Sinha and Brij Raj Singh observed that the accused cops had indulged in a barbaric and inhuman killing of innocent persons by calling them terrorists. "Besides, if some of the deceased were involved in anti-social activities and criminal cases were registered against them, then too, procedure established by law should have been adhered to, to bring them to task and not indulging in such a barbaric and inhuman killing of the innocent persons."
The court listed the criminal appeal of accused filed challenging their conviction, for a final hearing on July 25. As per the prosecution case, on July 12, 1991, a bus containing passengers/pilgrims was stopped near Pilibhit by a team of Uttar Pradesh Police of district Pilibhit (appellants). They brought down 10-11 Sikh youths from the bus, boarded them in their blue police bus and some police personnel sat in the bus along with the remaining passengers/pilgrims. Thereafter, the remaining passengers/pilgrims kept roaming the pilgrims' bus the whole day here and there with the police personnel and after that, the policemen left the bus in a Gurudwara in Pilibhit at night, whereas 10 Sikh youths, who were alighted from the pilgrims' bus, were killed by the police.
The 11th one was a child whose whereabouts could not be traced out and his parents were given compensation by the state. Initially, the investigation of the incident was conducted by the local police of district Pilibhit, and a closure report was filed by the local police. However, the Supreme Court entrusted the investigation of the incidents relating to the encounter to the CBI. The trial took place in the court of the Special Judge, CBI/Additional District Judge, Lucknow, and vide its judgment and order dated April 4, 2016, in total, 47 persons were convicted under Sections 120-B, 302, 364, 365, 218, 117 IPC.
All the 47 convicts/appellants moved to the High Court. Out of these 47 convicts, 12 were granted bail by a co-ordinate bench of the high court either on the grounds of age or severe ailment. The court observed that it was a case of a gruesome murder of the deceased who had no criminal antecedents along with some of the deceased who had criminal antecedents. However, the court added that it was not justified on the part of the accused persons to treat all the deceased to be the terrorists by separating them from their wives and their children, who were going on a pilgrimage on the bus, and taking them to another bus and killing them in a fake encounter.
Consequently, it denied bail to 34 cops and clarified that the observations made by it were only to decide the question of grant of bail and should not be treated to be the expression of any opinion on the merits of the case.