The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court recently denied bail to 34 cops of Pradeshik Armed Constabulary (PAC). They are accused of killing 10 Sikh men in a fake encounter in 1991 while treating them as terrorists.
The bench comprising Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Brij Raj Singh noted that the cops had indulged in barbaric and inhuman killing of innocent persons by calling them terrorists.
The bench noted, “Moreso, 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 in the name of terrorists by the appellants.”
1991 Pilibhit Fake Encounter Case Details
As per the submissions made by the prosecution, a bus carrying passengers (pilgrims) was stopped near Pilibhit between 9-10 am on July 12, 1991, by Uttar Pradesh police of Pilibhit district.
The cops alighted 10-11 Sikh youths from the bus and boarded them in their blue police vehicle. Some of them sat with the remaining passengers which included children, women and old men.
That bus was made to keep roaming here and there throughout the day. At last, the police personnel left the bus at a Gurudwara in Pilibhit in the night.
Whereas, the 10 Sikh youths were killed by the cops showing them as terrorists by dividing them into three parts. Three separate FIRs were filed.
The eleventh Sikh alighted by police personnel was a child. His whereabouts were not traced and his family got compensation from the State.
Initially, the local Piliphit police investigated the incident and submitted a report. However, the Supreme Court entrusted the investigation to the CBI.
Special Judge, CBI /Additional District Judge, Lucknow heard the matter and convicted 47 police personnel under Section 120-B, Section 302, Section 364, Section 365, Section 218, and Section 117 of Indian Penal Code on April 4, 2016.
Aggrieved parties moved the High Court challenging the trial court order. Out of 47 appellants, the Co-ordinate Bench of Allahabad High Court granted bail to 12 accused either on the ground of age or severe ailments.
The first contention raised by the cops was that deceased belonged to the terrorist outfit Khalistan Liberation Army. They also submitted that there was a vigilance report which stated that hardcore terrorist of Khalistan Liberation Front were present in Pilibhi and nearby areas. It was also submitted that these terrorists were committing heinous crimes like land grabbing, murder, loot, etc and were creating turmoil in the public.
After scrutinizing all the arguments and evidence, the Allahabad High Court bench stated that it was a case of the gruesome murder of the accused with no criminal antecedents.
The bench observed 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 at three different places of district Pilibhit.
The bench went on to add, “Taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case and also considering the gravity of offence; evidences of the prosecution witnesses; presence of two eye-witnesses P.W.11 and P.W.13, who supported the prosecution case; medical evidence corroborates the prosecution case; non-explanation of injuries of mark of rub and lacerated wounds found on the dead bodies of the deceased persons by the appellants; non-explanation of mark of bullet on the blue coloured bus by which eye-witnesses P.W.11 and P.W.13 had stated to bring 10 young Sikhs by the police personnel/appellants; non-explanation of source of inputs gathered with regard to travelling of terrorists from the pilgrims bus by the appellants on the date of the incident, this Court do not find it a fit case to enlarge the appellants on bail.”
The bench clarified that the observations made here were only to decide the question of grant of bail and shall not be treated to be the expression of any opinion on the merits of the case.
The bench has posted the matter for a final hearing on July 25, 2022.