The National Human Rights Commission on Monday accused the “higher-ups” in Uttar Pradesh of allowing the police to freely misuse their power and “settle scores with people”. Two days after a sub-inspector allegedly shot at a gym trainer in Noida, the human rights body observed a “sequence” of such police encounters in the state.

The sub-inspector was arrested and three other police personnel were suspended after the incident. The man’s family alleged it was a fake encounter, though the police ruled it out. The 25-year-old is in hospital.

Taking suo motu cognizance of the incident, the NHRC on Monday issued a notice to the state’s chief secretary and director general of police, and asked for a report within six weeks. The panel asked them “to look into the emerging scenario personally, and to take appropriate action to sensitise police personnel not to abuse their power to harass innocent citizens”.

The panel said police in the state “are feeling free, misusing their power in the light of an undeclared endorsement given by the higher-ups”. “Creating an atmosphere of fear is not the correct way to deal with crime,” the NHRC’s statement said. “In this particular case, the injured man is not an offender.”

In November 2017, the NHRC had sent a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government over Chief Minister Adityanath’s alleged endorsement of encounter killings in the state. Adityanath had said: “We will make life difficult for criminals. They will have only two places to go: either they will be sent to jail, or they will be killed in police encounters.”

The shooting incident

The alleged incident took place around 10 pm on Saturday when gym trainer Jitendra Kumar Yadav and his three friends were on their way back from a wedding in Ghaziabad. Sub-inspector Vijay Darshan and three other policemen stopped their car near Noida Sector 122 and said they would be taken to the police station, alleged Yadav’s friend.

“We aren’t criminals, why should we have gone to the police chowki?” he said. “As soon as we sat in the car, he took out the gun and shot...We thought that the bullet has been fired in the air but we saw blood and panicked…When we reached the chowki, he parked the car. I broke the windscreen of the car and started creating a hue and cry because he was not taking us to the hospital…He called someone and said an encounter has taken place here, cross firing has happened.”

District Senior Superintendent of Police Love Kumar said the police suspected personal enmity to be the reason behind the shooting, as Darshan knew Yadav’s elder brother very well.