Shooting at criminals "should be the pattern" if they attempt to escape from custody, according to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Justifying a series of shootouts reported from his state in recent times, on Monday he also advocated zero-tolerance to crime against women, well-equipped law-keepers, error-free chargesheet writing, among other things.
Speaking for the first time to all Officers-in-Charge (OCs) of the state's many police stations on "Redefining Policing Standards in Assam", the Chief Minister on Monday issued directions to strictly deal with crimes against women and show zero tolerance.
Chargesheets for all rape, molestation, and assault cases must be filed at the earliest, along with those in murder, arms, and drugs smuggling cases, to ensure speedy trial, he said.
However, his backing of shooting at criminals, although qualified, stood out among his pronouncements on Monday.
"If an accused tries to snatch the service gun and run away, or even simply flee, and on top of it he is, say, a rapist, the law allows shooting at such a person on the leg, but not on the chest," Mr Sarma said, according to a PTI report.
"When someone asked me whether shooting incidents are becoming a pattern in the state, I replied that (shooting) should be the pattern if it involves a criminal trying to escape police custody," he said.
Speaking to the media later, he said the police has no authority for shootouts. In a democracy, he said, crime must be fought through law.
"These (shootouts) happen only when there are no other means," he said.
At least 12 suspected militants and criminals have been shot dead in the state since May as they reportedly tried to escape from custody, while several others, including rape accused and cattle smugglers, were injured, according to the PTI report.
Mr Sarma, while urging the OCs not to succumb to political pressure or inducements, advocated healthy lifestyle habits and delivery of people-friendly services like completion of police verifications for jobs and passports within seven days, unless it's a doubtful case. Similarly, he said, families of victims of road accidents must receive reports at the earliest to ensure hassle-free insurance claims.
Referring to autopsies, he sought a quick collection of reports, holding the Deputy Inspector-Generals responsible for this.
"Steps have to be taken to send samples for testing at forensic laboratories outside the state to minimise delays as the only one in Guwahati is not sufficient," Mr Sarma said.
He said progress on all these fronts will be reviewed at the next OC conference, which will now be held every six months.
The Chief Minister also emphasised better working conditions for policemen so that they perform to their best.
Among his announcements on this front was the provision of the following for every police station in the state: Rs 2.5 lakh every year, a four-wheeler, three computers, residential quarters for every OC and three sub-inspectors, and a power generator.
Delving into the importance of error-free chargesheets, he said the state Criminal Investigation Department will train the OCs while capable public prosecutors will be hired to ensure justice delivery.
The state Health Department will now hold check-ups every 15 days for the personnel.