Afroz Alam Sahil & Kamala Kanta Dash, BeyondHeadlines
A question on who is responsible for stalling the demand for a magisterial inquiry into the Batla House Encounter reveals interesting conjectures. Even before the High Court and Supreme Court passed orders in August and October 2009 respectively to reject the need for an independent probe, the Lt Governor of Delhi in January 2009 had cited the yet to come judicial orders to decline the requirement of a magisterial inquiry.
The last three years have witnessed that the demand for an independent magisterial probe into the Batla House Encounter has been marred in departments passing the buck. The responses to the RTIs filed by Beyond Headlines reveal that the Lt. Governor of Delhi had rejected the need for an independent probe. This happened despite the fact that the National Human Rights Council (NHRC) has set guidelines since 2003 to conduct an independent magisterial inquiry in all police encounters.
NHRC had sent a series of notices from September to December 2008 to Delhi Police to submit a report on the encounter. An important notice was sent in January 2009 to Delhi Police to respond in six weeks time on the issues of magisterial inquiry. Delhi Police did not respond in the due time. NHRC in the meantime chose to publish a report on 20 July, 2009.
The NHRC response to an RTI confirmed that no magisterial inquiry could have been conducted as the Lt. Governor of Delhi did not favour such an inquiry. But the Lt. Governor’s response to our RTI on whether he had any communication with NHRC he replied in the negative. However, he agreed to have rejected the need of an independent magisterial probe.
The NHRC report released on 22 July 2009 citing a home ministry communication dated 21 January 2009 mentioned that the Lt Governor had declined to order a magisterial probe on or before. The curious aspect of this rejection as mentioned by the Lt Governor was influenced by the orders of the High Court and Supreme Court. He said that the High Court and Supreme Court did not feel the need for such a judicial probe and the Lt Governor cited this in his justification to reject the demand for an inquiry. It must be noted here that there was no such hearing of this case by January 2009. The High Court on 26 August 2009 on the basis of the NHRC report had rejected the plea for an independent probe and on re-appeals the Supreme Court on 30 October 2009 also has rejected the need for a judicial inquiry. By January 2009 when the case was not yet sent to the judiciary and the Lt Governor could sense the judiciary’s future possible orders!