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Prasanna Mishra

News Highlights

  • Hyder's encounter does raise the important issue of Right to Life.
  • Hyder was serving life imprisonment and would have continued in confinement indefinitely.
  • Police will have a lot of explaining to do why Hyder was hit on the chest if he was escaping.

Sheikh Hyder, the widely known gangster, met with a gory death in the afternoon of July 24 on his way to Baripada Jail from the Jail at Choudwar. The shifting reportedly was as per orders of the Court. Hyder who was serving a life sentence fell to bullets fired by one of the ten policemen escorting him to Baripada. The incident was widely reported in the media as an encounter. 

The incident does raise the important issue of Right to Life. The Constitution of India doesn’t make any difference between the life of a Saint and a Villain. I am not on the question of how virtuous or vicious the dead man was. Article 21 of the Constitution of India doesn’t expressly say about custodial death, but its ambit is wide. This Fundamental Right states that no person shall be deprived of his life except according to the procedure established by law. The issue here is was the gunning down of Sheikh Hyder in accordance with the procedure established by law. 

Reportedly, Hyder snatched away an AK-47 Rifle from one of the policemen and threatened to kill the policemen in case they resisted his escape. A Sub-Inspector of Police fired at him from his Revolver severely injuring him. Presumably, Hyder was escaping armed with the AK-47 Rifle. In that case his posterior would have been hit; not anterior. Police will have to do a lot of explaining why he was hit on the chest. Hyder was serving life imprisonment and would have continued in confinement indefinitely. With his background of criminal activities over decades, society was safer with him in jail rather than in freedom. For various reasons he was shifted from one jail to another, a number of times. He has been travelling while undergoing jail-term for medical consultations and treatment as well. He perhaps hadn’t attempted an escape earlier while he was travelling. However, he planned well to flee from custody some months ago when he was under treatment at the Medical College at Cuttack where he was accommodated in an air-conditioned room. Accomplices reportedly were many, ranging from compliant police personnel and relatives to lady acquaintances. Police had drawn flak over this issue and sprang into action swiftly.

He was nabbed near Hyderabad and brought back. The escape, however, did point to serious dereliction of duty by a number of government functionaries across Departments and an independent investigation would have revealed a lot of skeletons in the government cupboard. It would suit many if these details remained a secret.

Hyder operated through efficient networking; took advantage of the soft underbelly of the prevailing political-administrative system and benefited from the slow pace of the criminal justice delivery arrangement. That in large number of cases Hyder was acquitted because there was no witness to depose against him, only indicates the de facto power he enjoyed in his area of operation. His words prevailed where witnesses thought it prudent to remain silent and enjoy his protection rather than put their life to risk by standing behind law enforcement agencies.

He was worldly-wise to know that escape from police custody does need meticulous planning, accomplices, getaway vehicle, a secure hideout. These logistics support would not be forthcoming just wherever he chose to get down from a police vehicle to attend to call of nature. Even if he had captured a Rifle, it didn’t guarantee a successful escape. If he was to shoot and kill the escorting policemen, he, armed with one AK 47 Rifle, as alleged, could have fired from a distance; not necessarily drawing himself too close to the target. The incident didn’t take place at night when an escape was easier. It was before four in the afternoon with clear daylight.

The incident looks rather a rarest of rare case where a person armed with one AK-47 Rifle about to trigger a volley of fire would fall to Revolver shots. The death does raise many issues the Police need to answer.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at lonewalker.1942@gmail.com)

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