The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved a draft notification by the Uttar Pradesh government recommending the names of retired Supreme Court judge B S Chauhan and ex-DGP K L Gupta for an expanded panel to probe the killing of gangster Vikas Dubey in an alleged encounter.
Days ago, Gupta, who served as the DGP of UP from April 1998 to December 1999, mainly under the BJP government led by Kalyan Singh, said in a TV debate that it was not right to doubt the police over the encounter.
Approving the names suggested by the UP government, the Supreme Court said the inquiry headed by retired judge Chauhan must look into how Dubey managed to get bail or parole despite 64 criminal cases against him. “We consider it to be the single most important factor,” the Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubra-manian, said, adding that the role of the state authorities must be covered.
It also said that it would not monitor the probe. “Just because it has received so much publicity doesn’t mean the SC will now monitor a criminal investigation,” the CJI said.
When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the UP government, told the Bench that the terms of reference of the commission would include inquiry into the circumstances which led to the killing of Dubey, the CJI intervened to ask, “How can you refer to it as killed?” Mehta said they would modify it as alleged to have been killed.
Asked about his remarks, on an India Today TV debate on the Dubey case, ex-DGP Gupta told The Indian Express on Wednesday, “Once we are made a part of the inquiry, we should not speak much on the process. Now we have to work more and speak less. We will be objective and fair to the inquiry.”
In the show, uploaded on YouTube a week ago, Gupta takes on the various questions raised over the alleged encounter, including how only police vehicles were allowed to cross tolls and barriers ahead of the “encounter” spot, how Dubey was made to shift from one vehicle to another, and how the SUV he was finally in met with an accident.
Speaking in Hindi, Gupta said, “First of all I thank the media that you people did such investigative journalism, you followed the vehicle from Ujjain (where Dubey was caught), his own family members probably did not do so. Now, at tolls and barriers, police vehicles are allowed to pass, everyone knows. Other vehicles are checked, also because of coronavirus these days, if someone is carrying something. People might have been stopped for 5-10 minutes, in that time itself the media started creating a ruckus. Har ek cheez ko aap negativity pe mat dekhiye. Pehle dekhiye ki bechare aath maare gaye the, unke liye aap logon ne kuchch kiya kya?… Uske paas carbine kahan se aayi, kahan se usne woh bana rakha tha bilkul ordnance factory ghar mein (Don’t see everything negatively. First, see if any of you did anything for the eight policemen killed by his gang… Where did he collect so many arms from, how had he made his house an ordnance factory)?”
The ex-DGP added, “Aap har cheez ko doubt se shuru kar rahe hain, ke uski gaadi kyun badal di gayi. Arey surprise element ke liye gaadi bhi badli jaati hai. SUV turn hoti hai, aap roz dekho national highway mein … Wo gaya tha surrender karne ke liye, ki mein judicial custody mein, judicial remand mein aaunga. Wahan ki police ne koi mukadma nahin kayam kiya… uske saamne pesh hone ya transit remand ki zarurat hi nahin padi… Ab suniye, woh bhagega hee… dekha ki yeh police ne hand over kar diya, ki mara na jaun, jahan palta toh bhagne ka prayas kar raha tha… Woh trained hai, itne aadmi ko maar chuka hai, agar goli saamne se chalayega… toh police maaregi, toh saamne seene pe hi lagega na (You are starting with a doubt, that why was his vehicle switched, that’s done for suprise element. SUVs overturn all the time on national highways… He had gone to surrender, thought he would stay in judicial custody, remand. But the police there had no case, there was no need for a remand… So it’s natural he would run… seeing that police have taken me into custody, I might get killed. The moment the vehicle turned over, he must have tried to run… He was trained, he had killed so many, if he fires from the front, police will fire back, and he will get hit in the chest).”
Gupta added that anyway there would be an inquiry and the police would have to explain what happened. The police were not “sarve sarva (supreme)”, he said.
Saying he was yet to receive any written order appointing him to the Dubey probe panel, Gupta told The Indian Express that his comments on the TV show were at “a different time and situation”. “I might have said some things as a former policeman when asked by someone. But now I should not speak anything about it. Now I am reportedly part of the inquiry commission and the police are also the subject matter in that inquiry. In fact, police conduct is more under the scanner. Therefore I do not have any comment at this point of time. The final report by us will go to the court in a sealed envelope.”
The UP government had earlier set up a one-man commission under retired Allahabad High Court judge Justice Shashi Kant Agarwal. The Supreme Court had asked it to expand the panel including a former judge of the top court and an ex-police officer.
On the alleged encounters which led to deaths of five associates of Dubey, the Court said Wednesday, “We also direct that the Special Investigation Team already constituted by the state government will be free to inquire into any of the related incidents which are the subject matters of this case.”
The Court said that the commission will sit in Lucknow and secretarial assistance would be provided by the Centre. When advocate Ghanshyam Upadhyay, one of the petitioners, said the commission should sit in Delhi, the Court rejected it, saying, “Why should the evidence be in Lucknow and commission sit in Delhi?”
When the petitioners referred to other encounters in the state, the CJI turned to Mehta and said, “You see that these incidents are not repeated in UP.”
Advocate Anoop Awasthi, who has filed a separate petition in the Dubey case, alleged that the order to “finish” the gangster came from the Chief Minister’s office. The CJI said, “We said circumstances which led to the killing of Dubey (will be investigated). It will include this.”
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