The Supreme Court Tuesday rejected petitions seeking removal of former UP DGP K L Gupta from the three-member commission set up to inquire into the killing of gangster Vikas Dubey in a police encounter on grounds of bias.
“He is not taking sides in the controversy. He has also said the inquiry is going on and they will be punished… You are only looking at one part of it,” said CJI S A Bobde, heading a three-judge bench comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
Advocates Ghanshyam Upadhyay and Anoop Awasthi, who referred to Gupta’s remarks to the media purportedly supporting the police version of the encounter, were told by the CJI that the former DGP had taken a “balanced view”.
“Why are you worried? There is an SC judge, a High Court judge also, on the panel. The inquiry commission will not be vitiated because of one officer,” the CJI said.
Initially, the bench seemed concerned by Gupta’s reported remarks. The CJI told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the UP government, that “one of your members, this DGP, has taken a public stand that’s not appropriate…you need to file a reply”.
Mehta then took the bench through the entire statement of Gupta. “He says there will be an inquiry. This was before the Commission of inquiry was created…He only said let inquiry happen, a petition is there and the court will decide,” Mehta said.
The CJI then told Upadhyay that “we were with you initially” but the “officer has said if after inquiry he is found guilty, he will be punished”.
The Indian Express on July 23 reported that the ex-DGP, in a debate on India Today TV, said it was not right to doubt the police over the encounter. Asked about his remarks, Gupta had told The Indian Express, “Once we are made a part of the inquiry, we should not speak much on the process… We will be objective and fair to the inquiry.”
When Upadhyay referred to Gupta’s remarks to say that he is biased, the bench asked “why are you casting aspersions on him”.
When Upadhyay argued that Gupta had preconceived notions of the incident and that there is no reason why other officials cannot be appointed, the bench asked “what’s your interest in having another officer appointed”.
Awasthi referred to Gupta’s remarks to news agency PTI, saying that he had said that the police version must be accepted at face value. But Mehta said “the statement should be read further”.
“In a trial also you first take the chargesheet and you accept it. Accepting doesn’t mean you believe it…A right-minded person who reads the whole statement will not believe this man is biased,” the CJI said.
The UP government had first set up a one-member commission under former Allahabad HC judge Justice (retired) Shashi Kant Agarwal to probe Dubey’s killing. However, the Supreme Court asked it to expand the panel by including a former SC judge and ex-police officer. On July 22, the court approved the new commission headed by former SC judge Justice (retired) B S Chauhan, Gupta and Justice (retired) Agarwal.