Former Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur says the cold-blooded killing of Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf whilst in police custody is “to say the least shocking”, adding that it raises several worrying questions and suspicions about the Uttar Pradesh police.
Justice Lokur was also sharply critical of UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s statement on February 25 that “Mafia ko mitti mein mila denge” [Will turn the Mafia to dust], calling it “very unfortunate” and “not good at all.” He also said the Supreme Court, whilst disposing of Atiq Ahmed’s plea on March 28 for protection whilst in police custody, should have asked for “an assurance from the police” that they would protect the gangster turned politician. He twice said the court should have been “more cautious”.
In an interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, Justice Lokur said “whilst there have been encounter deaths before” the killings of the Ahmed brothers is “probably the first time people have been killed by a third person whilst in police custody”. The police were meant to protect them but clearly failed.
Justice Lokur said the incident raised four damaging questions/suspicions about the UP police. First, why did the police not take the killers into police custody but instead send them to judicial remand? Don’t they want to/need to investigate? Second, were the police armed? If they were, why did they not fire back? If they weren’t, why not? Atiq Ahmed was clearly a man under threat. Third, how did the killers know Atiq and his brother were being taken to a hospital at 10:30 pm? And how did they know the media would be there and they could masquerade as mediapersons? Were they tipped off by someone? Fourth, what was the need to take them for a medical examination at 10:30 pm? Why couldn’t they have been taken in the morning, particularly as their police custody only ended at 5 pm on Sunday?
Speaking about UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s statement in the UP Assembly on February 25 that “mafia ko mitti mein mila denge”, Justice Lokur said: “ (It’s) very unfortunate to say something like this. It’s not good at all. That’s an indication there’s something wrong with the rule of law, with our judicial system.”