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WHAT CAN INDIA DO TO COMBAT POLICE BRUTALITY?











Published by: Gautham Krishna


Background:

Unfair treatment and brutality of police influenced by political components is not a nascent concept in India. The mere silence of the police in the case of the Palghar mob lynching incident and the violence inflicted by the police against the peaceful protesters in Uttar Pradesh showing their displeasure towards the Citizenship Amendment Act stand out among the highly controversial incidents exposed in the country. Constituting to these violent actions of the police, there has been a consistent spike in the deaths of individuals at the custody of the police in India. As reflected by the statistics revealed by the Home Ministry, our country had witnessed an aggregate of five custodial deaths per day and 1,674 deaths had been recorded across the country in the years of 2017 and 2018. The survey involving the police personnel disclosed that the brutality caused by police is prejudicial to Muslims, Dalits, Transgenders, and Migrant workers. In other words, the violent nature and acts tendered by the police are religious biased, caste biased and low economic people are more prone to such unfair treatment. One of the imperative reasons owing to the illicit actions of the police is the lack of human rights training endured by them.[1]

Fragile Implementation:

Even with the existence of strict laws and directions to govern and restrict the powers and actions of police, there still persists brutal incidents exhibited by the Indian police. Improper or failure in the execution of such laws and directions are the root cause of unfair treatment and provide the police with the upper hand. The police reforms fail to comply with the obligatory directions issued in the Prakash Singh verdict. The responsibility of the states is also at stake since only seventeen of the states had passed and approved of legislation to amend the statutes and provisions governing the procedural code of police.[2] However, the recommendations and directions of the apex court was ignored by almost all the states in the country. The need of establishing an authority to inspect and supervise the actions of police is a necessity to avoid unnecessary complications and exhibitions of any further brutal violence.

Prakash Singh Verdict:

The Supreme Court in the case of Prakash Singh v. Union of India[3]formulated and issued certain principles considering the lack of an implicit framework governing the degree of accountability of misconduct of police in the country. The apex institute mandated each and every state to constitute and comprise Police Complaints Authorities to combat the unfair treatment of the police. The court also assisted in imposing an appointment mechanism of the members in considering the complaints to be evaluated.

It was observed by the court that in the report of the National Police Commission, the impartial and judicial procedure of inquiring the police misconduct was highlighted. However, these observations and recommendations consisted of the reports and the consequent multiple reports of the National Commission was omitted and implemented to regulate misconduct of police.[4] This failure in the implementation of the commission’s findings forced the Supreme Court to issue directions in its judgment until all the states decide to pass appropriate legislation.

Legal Accountability:

Police personnel wields the authority to use a certain degree of force for the sake of enforcement of laws and the maintaining of orders. Unfortunately, this authority procured by the police is being misused by them in multiple ways and occasions in the form of unwanted arrests, custodial rapes, torture. The accountability of the police acts or rather serves a measure to keep a check on the abuse of power exerted by the police force of our country. This medium also ensures and safeguards inner accountability senior officers, accountability to political executives, and police oversight authorities.


The police forces are within the purview of the superintendence of the political members and such control of the political members over the police forces has been significantly misused by them in many situations. Police executives are made to misuse their powers to serve the political and personal interest of the political members thus influencing the professional decision making of the police whereby leading to a biased duty performance.[5] Therefore to reduce the scope of political members from influencing the conduct of police officers, the Second Administrative Reforms Commissions have suggested a reduction and restriction to promoting professional efficacy and to ensuring that the actions of the police are in compliance with the law.


To increase and instigate a sense of accountability to the police individuals, the Reforms Committee recommended the establishment of an independent complaints authority to look into matters of police misconduct. This recommendation was advanced by the committee as an internal police mechanism and political executives may side with law enforcers preventing them from providing a critical and independent judgment.[6]

Examples- Police Brutality:

There was an instance of unfair treatment of civilians and brutal means experienced by a father and son in the state of Tamilnadu. The owners of a mobile shop, Jayaraj, and Bennix were arrested on June 19 of this year since they had opened their shops beyond the curfew time despite the imposition of restrictions by the state. This was an incident of unwanted arrest as neither of the law-abiding citizens had committed any offence at the time of their arrest. Police exposed their aggression and brutal treatment to the victims by beating them till their clothes were blood-soaked.[7] They weren’t produced to a magistrate as the law dictates instead they were tortured by the officials for several days. As a result of ill-treatment involving constant bleeding and severe injuries both internal and external, the father and son died in the sub-jail.[8] This cruel incident depicts the unlimited powers and misconduct enjoyed by the police in the disguise of arrest and inquiry.

Remedy Against Misconduct:

With the rising cases of police brutalities in the state, it is important to comprehend and be aware of the framework to pursue grievances against police misconduct and indifferent treatment. Remedies are available as enumerated in the constitution of India in the form of compensation from the High Court of any state and the Supreme Court of our country for violations of fundamental rights. National and State Human Rights Commission have been set up under the ambit of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to provide relief to the victims.


The Indian Penal Code provides directions to file a complaint against any police officer for misusing his power in the form of a criminal complaint but it lacks an independent investigation. There are also numerous cases wherein police officials refuse to file FIR against their own colleagues and the safeguard bestowed in section 197 of the Criminal Code is often misused by the officers.

Conclusion:

Police fall within the category of state subject under our constitution wherein punishment and disciplinary proceedings against the misconduct of police officers leading to suspension, deduction of salary, and punishment are specified under corresponding state enactments. The offences committed by the police officers while discharging their official duties are to be considered and viewed with caution and with grave importance. Directions issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Prakash Singh v. Union of India is to be adopted by every state in the country to ensure constant and effective supervision of the execution of police duties.

[1] https://thewire.in/rights/george-floyd-protests-india-police-brutality. [2] https://scroll.in/article/964820/what-can-india-do-to-combat-police-brutality-and-bias. [3] (2006) 8 SCC 1. [4] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1090328/. [5] https://www.prsindia.org/policy/discussion-papers/police-reforms-india. [6] https://clpr.org.in/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Police-Accountability-CLPR.pdf. [7] https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/why-cant-india-end-police-brutality/. [8] https://blogsvoxpopuli.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/custodial-deaths-in-india-a-call-for-better-implementation-of-laws/.


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