, by RUQUAIA TABBASUM
The ideal purpose of police in a civilized society can be best described in the following words which spell out the duties of law enforcement officers as laid down in the international Code of Ethics:
‘As a law enforcement Officer my fundamental duty is to serve mankind, to safeguard lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder, and to respect constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.’
It may sound paradoxical, but it is a universal phenomenon that the police have been criticised and condemned for committing acts which are just contrary to their above mentioned ideal duties. The basic reason for such an unfortunate situation is that the powers which are given to the police to fulfil their legitimate and essential function are capable of being abused by them.
India is a cosmopolitan country. Every conceivable type of conflict in society is possible in our country due to its widely diverse sociological groups having different religions, languages, sects, subsets, communities and glaring economic disparities. Under these circumstances, the police which is supposed to be the guardian of law and protector of life and liberty of people has to play a more active role.
But the literature on Indian police is full of adverse comments upon them for their dishonesty, corruption and general lack of efficiency. Some people say that it is the very job of police which makes it unpopular, which is not correct. The main job of the police is the enforcement of law, but to exercise this job the police does not have unlimited powers and authority. Police has to fully abide by the procedure established by the law while exercising its duty and if the police does its job within the framework of the law, it can acquire the image of ‘bobby’ the London metropolitan police constables, whom the common man regards as a friend, philosopher and guide. But it often happens that instead of implementing and protecting law, the police itself choose to violate it, which undermines its image. Following factors prove the atrocities committed by the police in the society.
Torture usually denotes intense suffering, physical, mental and psychological, aimed at forcing someone to do or to say something against his or her will. The suspect is detained in some isolated place beyond the reach of the family, friends and legal assistance. The phenomenon of torture is very old, physical torture was legal and officially admitted as method of interrogation in many countries. Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act clearly spells out that ‘no confession made to a police officer shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence’.
But the allegation of torture and inhuman treatment is always levelled against the police in India. According to an Amnesty International report, 36 suspected criminals in Bhagalpur jail in the state of Bihar were deliberately blinded by the police between October 1979 and November 1980. Similarly, in one of the editions The Milli Times, an international magazine, published a photograph of one Abdul Hakeem, a person accused under TADA. During interrogation the police cut both his hands. These are the few examples that show that our police is cruel, brutal and barbarous
The custodial deaths or the lockup deaths are another manifestation of the police atrocity. The use of barbarous methods and third degree torture often result in deaths of the accused or suspects. If we analyse the cases of custodial deaths, it would seem that the police and brutality have become synonymous. For example, In Shakila Abdul Gafar v Vasant Raghunath, the husband of the complainant was arrested on the allegation that he had caused grievous hurt to Vishnu Sone Bhushan. The deceased informed his wife that he had to go to the police station in connection with that case. Around 8:30 the complainant noticed that a police van was parked on the main road. The accused came out of the van along with some constables and they were dragging the deceased.
Custodial torture and the subsequent deaths is a negative phenomenon. It is deliberate killing by the Custodian of Law. Generally it has been found that torture is a tool in the hands of the police to extract money from the people. If the relatives or the associates of the person in custody give the demanded amount, the accused is not tortured. That is why the poor and weaker sections of the society are the worst victims of the torture by the police.
POLICE ATROCITY AND WOMEN
When the inmates of the custody happen to be women, the vulnerable section of the society, they face additional and unspeakable mode of torture like pressing cigarettes on delicate parts, inserting rods in their private parts, torturing children in front of their mothers, etc. they are subject to the hazard of molestation and rape not only by the custodial staff but also by the male inmates of the jail. The policemen did not even spare minor girls from torture as is evident from the Muthura Rape Case. In Muzaffar Nagar Rape case, the police was alleged to indulge in rape of some women participating in a rally at Muzaffar Nagar.
Encounter is a unique contribution of the police of India to the vocabulary of human rights. Generally the so-called encounter is justified by the police on the ground of self-defence. No doubt, police has been given the powers to shoot but it is subject to restrictions, limitations and circumstances. It cannot kill a person under its custody. Encounter is a gruesome act which is the violation of human rights in general and violation of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India in particular, because Article 21 of the Constitution states that no person shall be deprived of his life and liberty except according to the procedure established by the law. In spite of all these, the record of police firing and resulting deaths is very bad and reflects police atrocities. Human Rights Organisations have documented hundreds of cases of encounter killing.
In April 1977 Tarkunde Commission was established to investigate the encounter deaths in Andhra Pradesh during Emergency. This commission also concluded that most of the encounter deaths were cold blooded murders. Encounter is the worst kind of police atrocity.
POLICE BRUTALITY AND MINORITIES
The police have always been brutal to the minority groups based on religion, race or language. In 1984 Indira Gandhi was assassinated by three Sikhs, since then the Sikhs have been victims of majority community brutality and police atrocities. Muslims have a rare share in police and that’s why they are the worst victims of police atrocities in normal days generally and during riots particularly.
Law in all countries authorises the police to use force under certain circumstances. This authority is in fact, to facilitate their basic role and cannot be questioned. The police has to protect the society from the acts of murderers, armed robbers, habitual criminals, terrorists and make it a safe place to live in.
But the police has certainly no right to inflict brutality on helpless persons under its custody ignoring every law of the land. In the light of above discussion we can say that the police often commits excesses and crosses the limits imposed by the law. In a democratic setup like India, people not the police are the real masters, as the real power is vested with them. The police is simply the agent of the government which is ultimately accountable to people, so the police too is accountable to the people for all their acts.
SENSE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
The authority of the police to use force in all circumstances is limited by the specific laws of the country. Like other citizens, the police is subject to the rule of law, and rule of law means restraint on both rulers and the ruled. Hence the police is accountable, every policeman is responsible for the act he does. Thus if a policeman inflicts torture on a person under his custody which is unlawful, he is liable to prosecution under the law. But we see that police commits the acts of brutality and atrocity and very few of the policemen are prosecuted.
In India, the police lacks the sense of accountability. There is growing tendency on part of police to act unlawfully. The result is horrifying cases of brutal custodial torture, custodial deaths, fake encounters, corruption and molestation of women by the police. This age is the age of human rights, protection and preservation of the rights of the people. The ultimate goal of all civilized states is happiness and satisfaction of people, and if the rights of the people are violated in the state then people cannot attain happiness. Policemen should respect the rights of people and should not violate them.