Extra-Judicial killings : Justifiable ?

    Edited by: Vaani Garg

    Introduction :

    Are extra-judicial killings lawful?

    Human beings expect to have minimum basic rights and liberties respected. The state or the government is the sole authority to promote and protect the rights of its citizens. The state authority mainly includes the police department, the army department, the judiciary, and the civic administration. But unfortunately, the duty men while doing their prescribed duty violate certain rights. Among the most dreadful human rights violation, no other practice is more audacious than extrajudicial killing. The meaning of extrajudicial itself is something not prescribed the court of law.

    Extra judicial killing is an illegal execution. [i] It is a disregard for basic human rights which is the right to life. Though there is no legal definition of extrajudicial killing it is usually described as an unlawful killing of a person by any government authority or individual without any approval of legal proceedings or government order.

    The nature of this act is naturally unlawful and is mostly carried out by the state government or other authorities of state like the police force, armed force, etc. The deadly punishments include deaths caused by strafing, assassinations, indiscriminate firing, slaughter, and mass killing. Preserving the rule of law[ii]and recognition of individual liberties constitute an important component of understanding security. Extra-Judicial Killings are phenomenon not particular to India but also in other parts of the world. 

    Arbitrary killings are the highest form of violation of human rights[iii], specifically to the Right to Life [iv]which is considered obsolete and inalienable. What is common about such arbitrary killings across the globe is often the excessive power which arises out of immunity from prosecution granted to the perpetrator. Unfortunately, extrajudicial killings are not new to India. They have been used in the past by the police and security forces in varying contexts to quell insurgencies such as in the states of Bengal in the 1960s, and in Punjab in the 1980s.

    Such killings are also a regular feature in “ordinary” circumstances, for example in those states that do not have active conflicts (such as Uttar Pradesh) and in the course of regular law enforcement operations. Extrajudicial executions and torture aren’t new to India, but this is the first time they’ve been publicly applauded.

    Laws related to extra-judicial killings :

    The only two circumstances in which such killing would not constitute an offence were 

    1. Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code[v] authorizes any person to exercise his right of private defense which may extend to causing death if there is reasonable apprehension in the mind of the person that there exists a threat to life or limb.
    2. Section 46 of the CrPC[vi], which authorises the police to use force, extending up to the causing of death, as may be necessary to arrest the person accused of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life.

    Causes of Extra-judicial Killings :

    Fake encounters are a sign of the failure to hold security forces responsible for their crimes, but they are also a consequence of other problems. 

    • An overloaded justice system makes each trial a very long, drawn-out process.
    • Without proper training and equipment to secure evidence, the police rely on torture to secure confessions.
    • The police often admit privately that they engage in fake encounters because they are frustrated that criminals captured after much effort will simply walk away, for Instance, the broad public outrage as seen in murder of Disha case[vii] and Nirbhaya case[viii], etc.

    Vikas Dubey Encounter[ix]: Recent Case of Extra-Judicial Killings :

    Vikas Dubey encounter is the latest example of blatant Extra-judicial killing in India:

    On 10th of July a notorious gangster Vikas Dubey was killed by the UP police in an encounter. He was charged for the murder of 8 policemen. Everybody including the media and citizens predicted that this was going to happen because extra judicial killing is very common in India.

    Arguments against Extra judicial Killing

    • A country’s justice system has the responsibility to lawfully try any person accused of a crime, not the law enforcement.
    • The killing of an offender, who has not undergone the judicial process, by a law enforcer, or “extrajudicial killing”, is illegal in every aspect. It violates the Constitution and cannot be justified even if the accused was involved in the most heinous crime.
    • The lack of information and transparency surrounding these killings compounds the problem.
    • It also needs to be mentioned that a state that orders unending deployment of its armed forces without a sunset clause in its use to quell political and internal disorders, displays a lack of commitment to democratic principles of the Constitution.


    The killing of an offender, who has not undergone the judicial process, by a law enforcer, or “extrajudicial killing”, is illegal in every aspect. Extrajudicial executions are exactly what the phrase implies killings by the state outside the purview of the law. When the state acts with impunity, it erases the sharp line that separates the state from criminal. Unless it is for self-defence, all extra-judicial killings are otherwise unacceptable in a society of law .‘The rule by gun’ should not be prefered to ‘the rule of law’. The fundamental premise of the rule of law is that every human being, including the worst criminal, is entitled to basic human rights and due process.


    [i] Extra-judicial Killings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extrajudicial_killing

    [ii] Rule of law: https://worldjusticeproject.org/about-us/overview/what-rule-law

    [iii] Violation of human rights : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights

    [iv] Right to life : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_life

    [v] Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code -Right of Private Defence  https://indiankanoon.org/doc/714464/

    [vi]  Section 46 of the code of criminal procedure- Protection of members of the armed forces from arrest   https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1583711/

    [vii] Murder of Disha Case : https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/year-ender-2019-the-rape-and-murder-that-shook-a-nation/articleshow/73003427.cms

    [viii] Nirbhaya case : https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/nirbhaya-gang-rape

    [ix] Vikas Dubey Encounter : https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/vikas-dubey-caught-alive-brought-dead/articleshow/76901667.cms