The Supreme Court has imposed an interim cost of Rs 7 lakh on the Uttar Pradesh government in a 2002 encounter case and also pulled up the state for protecting its police officers, reported Bar and Bench.

“The petitioner, who is the father of the deceased who was killed in an alleged encounter by the police, has been running from pillar to post from the last 19 years,” the order issued on Thursday said.

It added: “The laxity with which [the] state has proceeded in the present case speaks volumes of how [the] state machinery is defending or protecting its own police officers.”

The police had filed a closure report in 2005, dismissing charges against their officers. A trial court had rejected the closure report but no arrests were made in the case. The lower court had stayed the arrest of one of the accused persons, reported The Indian Express.

The accused had then moved the High Court against the trail court’s decision in 2017. The High Court dismissed the petition but again no one was arrested.

During Thursday’s hearing, the bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose noted that the trial court had directed in 2018 that the salaries of the accused officials be stopped but it was only done for one of them, according to The Indian Express.

It also noted that that the fourth accused person, who was absconding, was even paid all his dues when he retired in 2019.

“It is noteworthy that it was only after notices were issued by this court in this writ petition on September 1, 2021 that the state machinery geared up in action and have arrested two of the accused persons after 19 years and one accused has surrendered,” the court said. “As regards fourth accused, it is stated that he is still absconding.”

Additional Advocate General S Garima Prasad, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, said the state was taking every action in the case and has also opened an inquiry into why steps were not taken to comply with the trial court’s orders.

The court will take up the matter for hearing again on October 20.