In a bid to justify the series of encounters in Assam since he assumed office, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that shooting should be the pattern if criminals try to escape from custody or snatch arms from the cops to open fire.
Notably, the state has recently witnessed at least a dozen suspected insurgents and criminals being shot dead as they “tried to escape” from custody. The encounter of criminals has resulted in a political furore in the state.
The opposition, reacting to the incidents, alleged that Assam Police has turned “trigger happy” under the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led regime. The state police, however, refuted the charge, claiming that it was the criminals who forced its personnel to resort to firing.
What Himanta Biswa Sarma said
The Assam chief minister at the first-ever face-to-face meeting with the officers-in-charge (OCs) of all police stations of Assam said, “If an accused tries to snatch the service gun and run away, or even simply flee, and on top of it he is, say, a rapist, the law allows shooting at such a person on the leg, but not on the chest.”
He said, “When someone asked me whether shooting incidents are becoming a pattern in the state, I replied that (shooting) should be the pattern if it involves a criminal trying to escape police custody.” Sarma, who also holds the home portfolio, said the law has allowed the police to shoot at accused or criminals if they open fire first or try to escape.
Sarma said, “But before doing what law has permitted us to do, we must keep our conscience clear that our work is for the good of the people and not to serve any interest of our own.” Under the normal procedure, an accused will be chargesheeted and convicted, he said, adding, but if someone tries to escape, “we will take a zero-tolerance approach”.
Sarma later told reporters, “Police has no authority for encounters. In a democracy, crime is fought through law and not encounter. These happen only when there are no other means.”
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