People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has raised series of questions about the killing of ex-MP Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf on 15 April, saying that the answers to them “will tell us whether it was a question of mere negligence by the UP police or a deeper conspiracy by the UP police and the UP administration, in the murders themselves”. In a statement, PUCL said, Yogi Adityanath government has a responsibility “to ensure that vigilante murders do not occur and that the police do not kill people extra-judicially”. It added, “It is the right of the accused to prove their innocence in a court of law, through due process, which has been blatantly denied and summary (in)justice is meted out without fair trial.

This is in blatant violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution and cannot be allowed or condoned.” PUCL said, it is concerned that de facto policy of the Adityanath government of “treating rule of law as an unnecessary irritant of no consequence”, will result in the destruction of one of the basic pillars of constitutional democracy and pave the way for “lawlessness and brute power”.

The statement says, “It is up to other institutions of accountability right from the media, the judiciary, the NHRC and other independent human rights bodies to defend this core democratic principle in the face of this ferocious assault on the rule of law by the UP administration”. The Adityanath government’s assertion that criminals are not entitled to the rule of law is antithetical to the values of the constitution, PUCL said, warning those in the public who support this “amoral position” that making an exception to the edifice of rule of law will result in a slippery slope.

If this trend is not checked the state will feel emboldened to opt for vigilante justice, including extrajudicial executions, against all those questioning its actions and policies.