Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Supreme Court rulings on Encounters


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Issues with Extrajudicial Killings


Central idea: A gangster-turned-politician son and his aide were killed in an encounter in UP.

Why discuss this?

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Supreme Court have laid down proper guidelines and procedures to be followed to prevent any misuse of power by the law enforcement agencies.
  • However, this encounter has brought to the forefront the issue of extra-judicial killings or “encounters” by the police in India.

Supreme Court Guidelines on Encounters

  • In September 2014, a bench of then CJI RM Lodha and Rohinton Fali Nariman issued detailed guidelines.
  • These guidelines came in the case “People’s Union for Civil Liberties v State of Maharashtra”.
  • The guidelines enumerated 16 points to be followed in the matters of investigating police encounters in the cases of death as the standard procedure for a thorough, effective and independent investigation-
  1. Registration of a first information report (FIR) as mandatory
  2. Magisterial inquiry
  3. Keeping written records of intelligence inputs
  4. Independent investigation by bodies such as the CID
  5. A Magisterial Inquiry must invariably be held in all cases of death which occur in the course of police action
  6. Next of kin of the deceased must invariably be associated in such inquiry
  7. In every case when a complaint is made against the police alleging commission of a criminal act on their part, which makes out a cognizable case of culpable homicide, an FIR to this effect must be registered under appropriate sections of the IPC
  8. Such an inquiry made under Section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, must show “whether use of force was justified and action taken was lawful.”
  9. Whenever the police receives any intelligence or tip-off on criminal movements or activities relating to the commission of grave criminal offence, “it shall be reduced into writing in some form (preferably into case diary) or in some electronic form.”
  10. Following such tip-off or intelligence, if an encounter takes place and a firearm is used by the police party, resulting in death, then an FIR to that effect has to be registered and forwarded to the court under Section 157 without delay.
  11. Provisions for an independent investigation into the encounter
  12. The requirements/norms must be strictly observed in all cases of death and grievous injury in police encounters by treating them as law declared under Article 141 of Indian Constitution.
  13. The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all other courts in Indian Territory.
  14. NHRC’s involvement is not necessary, “unless there is serious doubt about independent and impartial investigation.”
  15. The information about the incident must be sent to NHRC or the State Human Rights Commission.

NHRC Guidelines on Encounters

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked all states and Union Territories to ensure that police follow a set of guidelines in cases where death is caused in police encounters.
  • These included the police’s duty to enter all information received about encounter deaths in an “appropriate register” and provisions for investigation by independent agencies like the State CID.

Issues with such encounters

  • Defies rule of law: This practice undermines the rule of law and due process, and violates the right to life and other human rights.
  • Use of force: There have been allegations of police and security forces using excessive force.
  • Fake encounters: There have been instances of staging encounters, and conducting fake encounters to eliminate suspects without following the due legal process.
  • Autocracy: These incidents have raised concerns about impunity, lack of accountability, and the need for reforms to ensure that law enforcement officials are held accountable for their actions.
  • Distrust among the public: Public often tend to lose belief among the constitutional process of justice.

Why are such encounters popular among public?

  • Lack of trust in the legal system: Some people may view extrajudicial killings and encounters as a way of bypassing the legal system which they may view as corrupt or inefficient.
  • Perception of safety: There may be a belief among some members of the public that such encounters can help to deter criminals and make their communities safer.
  • Frustration with the slow pace of justice: The Indian legal system can be slow and protracted, and some people may view extrajudicial killings and encounters as a way to expedite the process of justice.
  • Lack of awareness about human rights: Some people may not be aware of the human rights implications of such encounters, or may view them as a necessary means to an end.


  • It is important to note, however, that extrajudicial killings and encounters are illegal, undermine the rule of law, and violate human rights.
  • They also carry the risk of abuse, and can result in innocent people being targeted or killed.
  • Therefore, such practices cannot be justified or condoned in a democratic and law-abiding society.

Back2Basics: National Human Rights Commission

  • NHRC is an independent statutory body established in India on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
  • It is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, and prevention of their violations.
  • It is empowered to investigate complaints of human rights violations and recommend appropriate remedial measures.
  • It also monitors the human rights situation in the country, undertakes research and advocacy, and conducts various educational and awareness programs to promote human rights awareness and sensitivity among various sections of society.


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