Gauhati High Court: COVID-19 Lockdown in Assam, Still Not a Barrier to Extra-Judicial Killings?

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The High Court of Gauhati received a letter by Jayanta Hojai to start a Habeas Corpus Writ Petition. The case serves as an important benchmark for the Courts to establish rules against the misuse of power in cases of ‘Extra-Judicial Killings’.

Facts of the Case

Santosh Hojai, a militant turned businessman from Assam got kidnapped on 24.04.2020. Reportedly on the said date, a white car carrying 5 gunmen of Government Forces abducted him. Vide a letter dated 26.04.2020, Jayanta Hojai made the facts of the case clear for the Court.

The Police registered a case under Section 365 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This section focuses on “Kidnapping” or “Abduction with the intent of wrongful confinement”. Furthermore, lockdown restrictions disallow any civilian vehicles to roam around. The investigation also substantiates Government involvement in the same. On 02.05.2020, the dead body of Santosh Hojai got discovered. As a result, the case is due for hearing on 08.06.2020, as per the order of the Gauhati High Court.

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The deceased’s wife alleged the involvement of Deputy Superintendent of Police, Surja Kanta Morang, in the killing. Moreover, the statement awaits verification. Most importantly, this speculation gave rise to a new angle in the case, ‘Extra-Judicial Killing’. The Court gave an order befitting the situation discussed hence.

Order of the Court

Gauhati High Court issued an order to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) on 4.05.2020. Sri Dilip Kumar Dey (DIG of Police, Assam) will head the SIT.

Above all, a possible win came with the order of the High Court. It observed that the lockdown conditions will not be a ground for any delay.

Current Situation

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Haflong is tense as protests continue against the brutal killing of Santosh Hojai. The Hmar Students’ Association (HSA) has expressed shock over the recent turn of events. Hundreds of people are staging protests and drama on the streets. They demand justice for the ex-militant leader- Santosh Hojai. The Dimasa Students Union (DSU) expressed concern over the delay in delivering justice. They demanded to hand over the case to the CBI or NIA for investigation. There is mass resentment among the people for the loss of their hero. Human Rights Organizations have received petitions asking for an investigation and fast-track judgment. Associations have also written to the Union Home Minister about the situation in Assam due to the killing.

On 24 May 2020, former officer-in-charge of the case, Anshuman Rajkumar got suspended. He had allegedly failed to file the FIR about the deceased going missing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, extra-judicial killings in Assam pose a threat to peace and stability in the state. Such murders have been rampant from 1998 onwards. The order marks a huge win for all the bodies involved in fighting this dreadful practice for years. We await the findings of SIT and the Court’s judgment. As they will serve the people of the state the justice they demand and deserve.


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