'Accept police version at face value': Meet KL Gupta, a Vikas Dubey inquiry commission member and ex-UP DGP
The inclusion of KL Gupta is noteworthy because of his controversial remarks both about this case and in the past.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court approved the Uttar Pradesh government's draft notification to appoint former apex court Justice (Retired) BS Chauhan, along with former high court Justice (Retired) Shashi Kant Agarwal and former Uttar Pradesh director general of police KL Gupta, to the three-member inquiry commission on the killing of eight policemen and the subsequent encounter killings of gangster Vikas Dubey and five of his alleged associates.
The inclusion of Gupta, a 1965-batch IPS officer and previously the director general of the government railway police, who served as Uttar Pradesh DGP from April 1998 to December 1999 (mostly under the BJP's Kalyan Singh government) after taking over from Sriram Arun in a shake-up of the bureaucracy by the then BJP state government which also saw 16 senior IPS officers transferred, is noteworthy because of his controversial remarks both about this case and in the past.
'Don't see every event with negative POV'
In the aftermath of the encounter, which saw a number of police personnel, both present and retired, offer a wide variety of views, Gupta, in a TV debate on India Today, began by seemingly attacking the media: "First, I thank the media for doing such investigative journalism by following the vehicle from Ujjain when his own family did not do so. Everyone knows that police vehicles are allowed to pass at tolls and barriers while others are checked due to coronavirus . They might have been stopped for five or ten minutes and the media immediately began creating a ruckus."
"Don't see every event with a negative point of view," Gupta further stated.
"First see if you did anything for the eight policemen who were killed. Did you go to their homes and see if their families were starving? Did you find out from where Dubey got so many weapons? Had he created an ordnance factory in his home? No. You didn't."
After the anchor protested that no one was justifying what that gangster did, Gupta responded with another chide and moved on to speculating as to what had transpired. "You are beginning with doubt. His vehicle was switched to obtain the element of surprise. SUVs, on national highways, overturn all the time. He'd gone to surrender thinking he'd be in judicial custody. But there was no need for remand as the police there had no case. So it's natural that he'd run if he thought 'I might get killed' if the police take me into custody. He must have attempted to flee the moment the vehicle overturned."
Gupta, however, added a caveat that an inquiry would occur where the police would have to explain their actions.
On Wednesday, when queried about his remarks, Gupta told The Indian Express. “Once we are made a part of the inquiry, we should not speak much on the process. Now we have to work more and speak less. We will be objective and fair to the inquiry.”
Gupta further told The Indian Express, clarifying that he was yet to receive any written order appointing him to the panel, that his comments on the TV show were at “a different time and situation.”
“I might have said some things as a former policeman when asked by someone. But now I should not speak anything about it. Now, I am reportedly part of the inquiry commission and the police are also the subject matter in that inquiry. In fact, police conduct is more under the scanner. Therefore I do not have any comment at this point of time. The final report by us will go to the court in a sealed envelope,” he told the newspaper.
'Accept police version at face value'
Some people might find that a difficult line to swallow given Gupta's earlier remarks to PTI on 10 July: "On face value, we should accept what police are saying. Why do we always start with negativity and dub police wrong? Encounters are not done, they happen."
Gupta said Dubey was facing over 60 cases. "He knew the law and also how to abuse it... why was he out of jail for years? His stay out of jail would have meant that he would commit more crime.”
When asked as to what he felt about the nature of the encounter after watching the visuals from the spot, Gupta said, "Accidents are not abnormal. They do happen. He was being brought from Ujjan and the driver might be tired. In this (rainy) season, such mishaps do happen."
"We should not be judgemental. This is not the end but a start,” he added. “There is the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission). Magisterial probe of encounters are done. Magistrates are not under police. If there is something wrong, the magistrate can order an FIR. Policemen have gone to jail in the past in fake encounter cases," the former DGP said.
"Only three percent people in our society are criminals. Let the rest 97 percent come forward and stand against them," he stressed.
In 2018, speaking after two Uttar Pradesh officers, one with the anti-terror squad (ATS) and the other posted as SP (East) in Kanpur, committed suicide, Gupta said the police has become a "Draupadi" who is answerable to politicians, the public, RTI queries, courts and human rights activists.
"There certainly are forces that pull down one's self-esteem and family discord is one reason for such steps," Gupta said.
In 2014, after then home minister Rajnath Singh had issued a statement saying police should act swiftly about Maoists without worry about the Human Rights Commission, Gupta reacted sharply, saying it is easy to say so but not easy to apply because of past cases where police officials faced trouble due to encounters and killings.
"The home minister saying all this is a very easy way to boost the morale of the police but the situation at the ground-level is different and to tackle such issues is not easy. If the police act according to what the home minister said, there will be no one to defend them when they will be charged for murder," Gupta told ANI.
"The main issue that needs to be addressed is in the criminal justice system. Hearings and judgments should be faster and if required, more courts need to be added. The criminals should be punished within a year and those who are innocent let off," he added.
The report of the inquiry commission, due within two months, will certainly make for interesting reading.
With inputs from agencies
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