Vikas Dubey killing: How was a fleeing gangster shot in the chest? Why no handcuffs? Too many questions for UP Police to answer

Ajay Kumar

When someone is arrested, lawfully, their well being becomes the responsibility of the state. This is because, a person is arrested as part of a broader judicial process. A process of investigation, trial, and conviction/acquittal. This duty of care exists only because the state's powers to maintain order must not affect the ordinary liberties of citizens. Punishment is something that must be meted out only by the sanction of the law. It is very tempting to say that in some cases, the law may not provide sufficient justice, so the government must take matters into his own hands. But free societies ought to resist that temptation, for it creates a snowball effect. India, though, has often played into this temptation.

When the police meet out justice, outside the court system, these actions are often celebrated in popular culture in India. We call these "encounters": when the police "encounter" an infamous criminal and are "compelled" to use deadly force to eliminate the criminal.

But encounters often answer fewer questions than they raise. On Friday morning, we learnt that notorious gangster, minor politician and history sheeter Vikas Dubey was "encountered" while trying to flee police custody. This happened, a day after he was caught in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and was being moved to Uttar Pradesh as part of an investigation into an encounter last Friday.

Last Friday, eight police personnel were gunned down in an ambush when they went to try and arrest Dubey. He then fled the scene and a manhunt was launched. The police found him Thursday in Ujjain and Friday morning he was dead.

The question though this raises, is what about justice to the lives of the eight personnel who were killed in the encounter last Friday? Dubey was the prime accused and would have known all the facts. Interrogating him, was of crucial evidentiary value to the probe behind the encounter. But now, the horse's mouth, is permanently shut. Who knows how many people, his permanent silence would now provide a shield to? Will we ever know who all were involved in the conspiracy that led to the ambush last Friday? Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has called for a Supreme Court monitored probe into both the "encounter" of this morning and the murders last Friday. Hopefully her pleas will be adhered to and there will be a probe.

The probe is needed because the Uttar Pradesh Police version of the events, on the face of it, does not make sense. The news was broken this morning in a series of tweets by ANI and as the story was developing, problems started emerging in the narrative of the police. If one proceeds, on the assumption, that the Uttar Pradesh Police is being 100 percent truthful, then the conclusion that this is gross incompetence on their part is not something that is far behind.

Let us look at the first issue with the story. Dubey was being transported in police vehicles from Ujjain to Madhya Pradesh. Because of the media interest surrounding this case, the police convoy was being shadowed by a media convoy.

This media convoy was stopped by the police before the "accident".

Further, the news was full of images of the "accident" site where one could actually see the police vehicles involved in this movement.

The Uttar Pradesh Police version of the events is that, after the accident, the car overturned. When this was happening, Dubey, stole a firearm from a constable and tried to escape. When the police tried to catch him, he opened fire on the police. Three police personnel were injured. Dubey died of injuries in retaliatory fire.

Except what does not make sense here is, why was Dubey not handcuffed while being transported? Further, why were ordinary civilian vehicles used instead of police vans, which has bars on the door to prevent escapes even in cases of accidents?

More importantly, one fact about this encounter raises the most critical question.

Dubey suffered three shots to the chest and died. The police men involved don't seem to have suffered injuries. The police clearly outnumbered Dubey in this encounter. If this was truly firing in self-defence, then why were the shots to the chest and not the legs or the arm?

The legal authorisation to use force in India is found in common law. The idea, to explain it simply, is that in India, you can only kill someone in self-defence, if it is absolutely necessary to do so. Especially with law enforcement, force escalation has to be a step by step process. Only when there is imminent threat of life, can force be used to the causing of death.

Dubey had one gun and was surrounded by police personnel. The fact that there was gunshots in his chest, raise very important questions of motive behind those that did the shooting.

It is unpopular to ask for the killing of notorious gangsters like Dubey to be investigated. A large amount of society is quite happy that he is dead and is no longer a source of trouble. But an encounter raises a very perverse question. If we are going to "encounter" violent criminals, why don't we do it before they do so much damage? If the Uttar Pradesh Police, could have "encountered" Dubey, how many lives would have been saved had they done so earlier? Maybe last Friday's casualties wouldn't have occurred at all.

Except, we all know the answer to this. Encounters in India are politically motivated. This is because, organised crime is the training ground for a class of "ground level politicians" who are "grassroot workers" of the party in power. If the Uttar Pradesh Police could have ended this at any time, by just murdering the man, then it means they allowed implicitly his atrocities to continue.

These perverse conclusions are perhaps why it is best that we stick to the rule of law and protecting the rights of arrestees. Because, the only thing worse than a crime-ridden state, is a state where the crime is sanctioned by the representatives of the people.

All views expressed in the article are personal

Also See: Vikas Dubey encounter: Car carrying Uttar Pradesh gangster flipped while trying to avoid cattle, claims police

Vikas Dubey Encounter Updates: Hours before gangster's death, petition filed in SC predicting 'possible killing'

Vikas Dubey killed in police encounter: Opposition slams Adityanath govt, raises criminal-politico-police nexus

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