NEW DELHI  - A top UN official called on India on Friday to investigate allegations of rampant extrajudicial killings and abolish a sweeping law that allows security forces to shoot on sight.

Christof Heyns, a UN Special Rapporteur, issued the call after travelling for 12 days through Held Jammu and Kashmir state and the northeast, as well as the states of Kerala, Gujarat and West Bengal.

Heyns, the UN expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged the Indian government to set up a commission of inquiry into widespread allegations of what he dubbed “so-called fake encounters”. “Despite constitutional guarantees and a robust human rights jurisprudence, extrajudicial killings are a matter of serious concern in India,” Heyns said.

In a statement he described “fake encounters” as: “A scene of a shootout is created in which people who have been targeted are projected as the aggressors who shot at the police and were then killed in self-defence.”

India must tackle a culture of impunity that protects troops, police and public officials from prosecution over illegal killings, custodial deaths and detentions, as well as improve rights for women and children, he added.

Heyns also urged the Indian government to repeal the harsh Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives authority to the army and paramilitary forces to kill suspected rebels, arrest people and destroy property. “In the northeastern states and Held Jammu and Kashmir, the armed forces have wide powers to employ lethal force,” Heyns said, referring to the legislation.

Such a law “has no role to play in a democracy and should be scrapped”, he said. “It has become a symbol of excessive state power” and “clearly violates international law”.

Heyns’ final conclusions and recommendations will be submitted as a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council at a session in 2013.

There was no immediate comment from the Indian government.