Vikas Dubey Encounter| SC refuses to scrap Justice B.S. Chauhan lead Judicial Committee; says allegations based merely on newspaper reports liable to be rejected outright

Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ refused to scrap the Judicial Committee constituted to look into the killing of Vikas Dubey and said that the allegations of bias made against the members of the Commission merely on the basis of newspaper reports and nothing more, are liable to be rejected outright.

“ … the Chairman and a Member of the Commission had held high Constitutional positions and while making allegations the petitioner has based his claim only on the newspaper report and the manner in which the averments are made in the application is unacceptable.”

The petitioner, in the present case, sought scrapping of the Judicial Committee and prayed that SIT be constituted by this Court to carry out, alleging conflict of interest and likely bias on the part of the Chairman, Dr. Justice B.S. Chauhan and K.L. Gupta, the Member.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

The Court had, on July 22, 2020, cleared the draft notification having Former Supreme court judge Justice B S Chauhan in Inquiry committee in the Vikas Dubey encounter case and has asked the UP Government to notify the same. The Inquiry committee will have to look into incidents of killing of eight policemen and subsequent encounter of gangster.

The Committee comprises of the following persons :

  • Justice B.S. Chauhan, Former Judge, Supreme Court – Chairman
  • Justice Shashi Kant Agarwal, Former Judge, Allahabad High Court – Member
  • L. Gupta, IPS, Former Director General of Police – Member 

Vikas Dubey, a history-sheeter and gangster-turned-politician, was killed in a police encounter on July 10, 2020. Here is the series of events that led to his death:

  • On July 3, 2020, during an attempt to arrest Dubey and his men, eight policemen were killed, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), while seven police personnel were left injured.
  • On July 9, 2020, Dubey surrendered near the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. A petition filed in the Supreme Court later that night had requested security for him and a CBI investigation into a series of killings.
  • On July 10,2020, the vehicle carrying Dubey was involved in a road accident and overturned just an hour short of Kanpur. Dubey allegedly snatched a pistol from a policeman trying to fix a flat tyre and tried to run away, before being killed by Uttar Pradesh police.

DISMISSAL OF EARLIER PLEA BY THE SAME PETITIONER SEEKING REMOVAL OF FORMER DGP KL GUPTA FROM THE COMMITTEE

The Court had, on 28.07.2020, dismissed the petitioner’s plea seeking removal of Former DGP K L Gupta from Inquiry Committee set up to probe gangster Vikas Dubey’s encounter and has said that  it will not allow petitioners to cast aspersions on the Former DGP.

The petitioner had sought the removal of the former DGP on the ground that he had made certain comments in favour of the police in the interview given to the media. This Court having considered the same and on not finding it objectionable, dismissed the application holding it to be devoid of merits.

ORDER IN THE PRESENT CASE

The Court noticed that despite the dismissal of the aforementioned application, the very same contentions are urged in the instant application as well and has also raised an additional contention that the Former DGP K.L. Gupta is related to Mohit Agarwal, the IG of Kanpur Zone. Further, objection is raised to the continuation of Dr. Justice B.S. Chauhan as the Chairman of the Commission since the news report relied on by the petitioner states that his brother and relative are legislators from the Bhartiya Janata Party which runs the Government in Uttar Pradesh.

Noticing that the entire basis for making the allegations as contained in the miscellaneous petition is an Article relied on by the petitioner said to have been published in the newspaper and without any material on record to confirm the truth or otherwise of the statement made in the newspaper, the Court noticed that

“this Court will have to be very circumspect while accepting such contentions based only on certain newspaper reports. This Court in a series of decisions has repeatedly held that the newspaper item without any further proof is of no evidentiary value.”

The Court further said that the allegation that the brother of the chairman of the Commission is a legislator belonging to or supporting the party in power and that the member of the Commission is related to the IG of Police (Kanpur Range) are not sufficient to come to the conclusion that it would lead to bias or conflict of interest since there is no indication whatsoever as to the nature of influence such of those relatives would be able to exert and as to whether they are in a dominant position.

The Bench concluded by saying that petitioner’s plea filed in public interest was accepted and the Commission of Inquiry consisting of persons who had held high position has been constituted even though the petitioner is an advocate who practices law in Mumbai, Maharashtra and is in no way connected to the incident in question which took place in U.P. However,

“… the petitioner has been raising unnecessary apprehensions and repeated applications are being filed which in fact is hampering the process of inquiry.”

The Court said that there would be sufficient safeguard to the manner in which the inquiry would be held as the enquiry held would be in public domain and the petitioner has already been granted the liberty of participating therein. Further, the report of the enquiry is ordered to be filed in the petitions which were filed before this Court.

[Ghanshyam Upadhyay v. State of UP, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 658, decided on 19.08.2020]

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