When we talk about the police force, we often look at a picture where the police are supposed to maintain law and order, work towards reducing crime rate and adhere to proper detection and investigation of unlawful and dangerous activities. However, the circumstances are changing every day, and the picture keeps getting ferocious. The way police exercise its power by crossing all thresholds of humanity stands in front of all.
History speaks for itself, and so do cases like Nilabati Behera Vs. State of Orissa (1993) The Secretary, Hailakandi Bar Association Vs. The state of Assam and another (1996) along with the very important D.K. Basu Vs. State of West Bengal (1996).
All these cases illustrate common standpoints such as custodial torture and death, negligence in taking down the information of the arrestee, providing health check-up, look up for marks on the body if any, preparation of an arrest memo and all other guidelines laid down by the hon’ble supreme court in the D.K. Basu case. However, post-D.K. Basu guidelines haven’t been much of an improvement.
The Law Commission also developed that police don’t enlighten the arrestee about their rights. Absence of awareness of the police’s rights and moral responsibility to inform the arrestee of the same lacks big time in India.
The fundamental rights guaranteed to us by the constitution play such an indispensable role for every individual. Right when we start from Article 21 that declares no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by the law. The right is available to both citizens and non-citizens, along with protection against arrest and detention under Article 22. The point is every individual is given protection and a fair chance to prove themselves. Although, ignorance of human dignity and self-esteem amounts to a gruesome way of portraying police brutality into something that is normalized extremely easily, whereas, in reality, it’s a heinous crime crossing all barriers. The glorification of police violence is so much so that the victim or the arrestee inflates a fear in their minds before raising their voices.
The famous narrative of police using force to obtain a confession in movies and series corresponds to a blurred impression because none of that is legal. Factors such as lack of accountability, muscle power, and a political inclination of certain officers indirectly crumble down people’s faith away from the system.
In Sathankulam, hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of P Jeyaraj and his son Benicks when they were brutally tortured in custody and later on died. A similar instance took place in February highlighting yet another shocking incident when Faizan and a few other people were beaten up by the police in broad daylight; the entire incident was recorded on the spot by one of the assaulters being identified as a police officer asking them to prove their loyalty to the country by singing the national anthem while they were soaked in blood. Yet no action was taken against them. Similar to this was the lynching of Pehlu Khan that was filmed in broad daylight.
Some questions are often raised on the delay of judgment even when there are both soft and hard proofs present, yet they are ignored on purpose. One such example is police brutality on university students during the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) protest. However, raising questions, protesting, and the right to be informed are integral for democracy, and not doing any of these results in a flawed democracy.
The normalization of beating, thrashing, and violence by police in our society portrays this scenario as acceptable. The police are the most recognizable face of the state and are supposed to be effective and unbiased. However, a survey of more than 12,000 police officers conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) found that half of India’s police force feels Muslims are naturally prone to committing crimes.
At the same time, the Prison Statistics report of 2018 showed that the majority of prisoners in India jails are Dalits and Muslims. Such biases increase wrongful convictions. Furthermore, according to the CSDS report representation of SCs, STs, OBCs, and women in the police is poor with huge vacancies in the reserved positions.
To reform the police organization, the National Police Service Commission was appointed by India’s government in 1977. According to the NPC, the police cannot achieve complete success unless all wings of the criminal justice system operate with simultaneous efficiency. The commission produced eight reports on how Indian Police Organization can be improved, such as judicial inquiry should be made mandatory, the establishment of special investigation cells, guidelines regarding the use of handcuffs, surprise visits by senior officers, and so on.
Our police, by no law, have the right to torture any human being. There is a way law and order is supposed to work, and brutality is never the answer.
Even today, as India is shut down for a pandemic, the government is arresting students, activists, and artists by putting draconian laws on them, such as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) National Security Act (NSA). The instances are heartbreaking, and what is more upsetting is the ignorance of authorities and government officials.
Emphasis has always been laid on empowering others around you. Awareness and education are the keys to fight against injustice and bring about a change we all need. The society is not made up of strangers but us who need to ditch selective activism and raise our voices against the wrong. ‘Power tends to corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely’ and in order to come out of the trap, being united is essential.