The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear on April 24 a plea seeking an independent probe into the killing of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf in Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj.
The duo were shot dead at point-blank range by three men posing as journalists in the middle of a media interaction on Saturday night while police personnel were escorting them to a medical college in Prayagraj for a checkup.
A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud took note of the submissions of advocate Vishal Tiwari who mentioned the matter seeking urgent hearing. The plea has also sought an inquiry into the 183 encounters that have taken place in Uttar Pradesh since 2017.
Just hours before the shooting, the last rites of Ahmad's son Asad, who along with one of his associates was gunned down in a police encounter in Jhansi on April 13, were held.
Uttar Pradesh Police had said on Friday that it has gunned down 183 alleged criminals in encounters in the six years of the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-led government and this included Asad and his accomplice.
The plea sought the setting up of an independent expert committee to probe the killing of Atiq and Ashraf.
"Issue guidelines/directions to safeguard the rule of law by constituting an independent expert committee under the chairmanship of a former Supreme Court justice to inquire into the 183 encounters which had occurred since 2017 as stated by Uttar Pradesh Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) and also to inquire into the police custody murder of Atiq and Ashraf," it said.
Referring to Atiq's killing, the plea said that "such actions by police are a severe threat to democracy and rule of law and lead to a police state".
"In a democratic society, the police cannot be allowed to become a mode of delivering final justice or to become a punishing authority. The power of punishment is only vested in the judiciary," the plea stated.
It said extrajudicial killings or fake police encounters have no place in the law.
When the police turn "daredevils then the entire rule of law collapses and generates fear in the mind of people against the police which is very dangerous for democracy and this also results in more crimes," the plea stated.