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Rising Police Brutality: Why Do We Fail To Hold Cops Accountable?

TW: Violence, rape

Celebrations after extra-judicial killing of the accused
People showered flower petals and paid homage to the veterinarian and raised slogans that justice had been served. Credits: CBC Radio

Remember the four men accused in the Telangana veterinary surgeon’s rape and murder case who were shot dead by the police on December 6, 2020, early dawn? The news of this extra-judicial encounter by the police evoked praises from all corners of the country and was welcomed by many. People showered flower petals and paid homage to the veterinarian and raised slogans that justice had been served.

Some even raised the “Telangana Police zindabad” slogans, hailing the cops. In Hyderabad, men and women were seen distributing sweets to police personnel, while some expressed their happiness by bursting firecrackers near the encounter site and in other parts of the city.

However, some expressed concern over the police’s interference in the law. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took cognizance of the killings and ordered an inquiry, saying the encounter was a matter of concern and needed to be probed carefully. Several human rights activists spoke out to express their outrage and said the police cannot act like a lynch mob under any circumstance.

Months have passed, yet no strict action has been taken against the police officers involved in that extra-judicial killing.

A few days back, Tamil Nadu police allegedly brutally tortured a father-son duo, P Jeyaraj (aged 62) and J Bennix (aged 32). The father and son were so brutally tortured that their pants were fully soaked in blood when taken to hospital. They had to keep changing lungis at the hospital due to severe bleeding. After a few hours in the hospital, the father and son were produced before the magistrate and were remanded in Jail.

The magistrate’s order of the remand completely overlooked the fact that the father-son duo had no criminal antecedents, and that the basic offence involved no moral turpitude. The order even ignored Rule 6 of Tamil Nadu Criminal Rules of Practice which mandates a physical examination of the accused. Despite the severe injuries suffered by both the accused, the magistrate failed to ensure proper medical care to them. The accused have a right to legal representation, but that was also ignored by the magistrate.

Due to continuous bleeding and severe external and internal injuries from the alleged lock-up torture, Bennix died late evening on June 22, and Jeyaraj died a few hours later, on June 23.

Meanwhile, two FIRs have been filed in which no officers have been booked for murder charges. However, due to the outrage and protests, four police officers, including two sub-inspectors, have been placed under suspension. A judicial inquiry is in progress; post-mortem report has been submitted to the Madras High Court in a sealed cover, and the court is waiting for a report from police. No action has been sought against the negligence of the magistrate, which not only caused the violation of the basic rights of the accused but also led to their deaths.

Jeyaraj and Bennix
Credits: Hindustan Times

The case of Jeyaraj and Bennix is one such example where the police went on excess with their powers and even the magistrate failed to keep a check on them. While we talk about the 11-point guidelines issued in D. K. Basu case by the Supreme Court, we must also crosscheck how many police personnel and state police departments are actually adhering to the guidelines of the SC.

Also in ‘People’s Union for Civil Liberties & Anr vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors’, a Bench comprising of Chief Justice R M Lodha and Justice Rohinton F Nariman issued a detailed 16-point procedure “to be followed in the matters of investigating police encounters in the cases of death as the standard procedure for thorough, effective and independent investigation” which is mostly overlooked while an inquiry is set up on the extra-judicial killings.

The police in India manages to run away from the gratuitous police beatings and custodial deaths, as for them beating up people without any fear of being held accountable is a routine matter. No superior is going to question him; no politician is going to call him for an explanation, and citizens will also take it in their stride.

No doubt massive outrage has been witnessed against police brutality in India in the past few years, but the outrage remains selective. While the people voiced their concerns over the custodial torture of  Jeyaraj and Bennix, they chose to remain silent over the killing of Faizan by the police mob or celebrated the extra-judicial killing of the four accused in the Hyderabad rape case. Not just this, extra-judicial killings and trigger-happy cops are exalted in Bollywood movies and television series. This further supports a real-life cop into taking the law in their hands and to go excessive with their powers, while the poor exercise of power by the magistrate allows these killings by police.

In the Indian Justice system, the role of the police is only to investigate, while the role of the judiciary is to prosecute the person based on that investigation. Extra-judicial killings are the highest form of violation of human rights, specifically Right to Life which is considered inalienable.

Such killings undermine democracy, and diminish the nation’s founding values. They delegitimize the state’s authority. They send a message that it is all right to disregard the Constitution, that it is fine to act outside the law.

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Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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