Rise of Police State?

Darul Qaza: Centre for Arbitration and Conciliation
Eid-ul-Azha – Festival of Sacrifice
Need For Legal Protection

Chief Justice of India recently said Police Stations pose the highest threat to human rights and dignity. In one Court hearing, he again stated that Police and CBI do not respond to complaints from Judges. If the person at the helm of the Indian Judicial System has such experiences, what can be said about common citizens?

The Courts are the custodians of the Constitution and protectors of the rights of the citizens. Common man does not expect the Chief Justice to make complaints, but his hope is on the Courts to protect him from the State and Police atrocities. If the Chief Justice has such experience, we can hope and trust to reflect these experiences in judgments that would shield against any injustice.

The Constitution of India promises citizens, Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity; it also assured them the individual’s dignity. The entire constitutional Scheme is to ensure liberty to its citizens to excel in all fields taking India to its desired heights. Still, in reality, the freedoms are being curtailed. The citizens are under continuous threat of being subjected to some action by the Police.

The scourge of Police atrocities is not new for the country; debates about protecting citizens from it have been ongoing since the framing of the Constitution. On 15.09.1949, the Constituent Assembly was discussing “How to protect Citizens from Police?” Shri. H. V. Kamath shared his experience in the following words,

“It is a well-known fact that the Police or other authorities or persons arresting or detaining people are not always actuated by the justest and the fairest of motives. As one who has spent a few years in the administrative field–in the administration of a district–I am well aware myself how the police arrest people for reasons wholly unconnected with security or order and sometimes merely to pay off old scores or wreak private vengeance.”

Dr. P. S. Deshmukh furthering the discussion, said,
“My Friend Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava admitted that this autocracy is in our blood, and it is showing signs everywhere. There have been shooting cases, there have been lathi charges, and there has been no attempt whatsoever to investigate the causes to look into the people’s grievances. The rule of unlawfulness, the want of the rule of law, is so rampant in the whole of India that it is likely to recoil upon the heads of all of us one of these days. The people are getting tired, and if you feel that this Government is not popular, there are very many reasons for that. Still, unfortunately, nobody is paying any attention to it.”

From time to time, Supreme Court tried to call reforms in Police administration landmark judgment in the case of D. K. Basu. The procedure and safeguards for the person arrested were laid down, including Medical Examination and mentioning the correct time of the arrest. The Police were directed not to arrest without bearing accurate, visible identification and name tag. The particulars of Police Personnel interrogating must be recorded in the register; a memo of arrest should be prepared and attested by a minimum of one witness. The detention should be informed to the relative or friend, the arrestee must be made aware of his right to have someone informed, and he must be permitted to meet his Lawyer.

Later, in the case of Arnesh Kumar Supreme Court made the Police liable for contempt and Judicial Officer for disciplinary action; if a person is accused of an offence where punishment is only up to 7 years is arrested and remanded without assigning required reasons of the eminent need of his custody.

Though the Courts are trying hard to protect the citizens, the Legislature and Executive are not supporting the cause. The laws are being made giving unbridled powers to the Police to violate the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. These powers are used to suppress the political opponents, dissents, and minorities. Now, we are accustomed to the news about the use (misuse) of CBI, ED, Tax Departments, and Police.

Various Governments, especially UP, have made the Police immune from legal action despite the misuse of power by introducing conditions of pre-sanction, giving them uncontrolled power of arrest, detention, making statements recorded by the Police admissible in Court, contrary to Article 20. The experience shows that victims of these Draconian laws are the citizens from the marginalized section of the society or members of Minority communities.

Surprisingly, while such unjust laws are being made and Police are seen to be acting unconstitutionally, the Hon’ble Home Minister of the country is the person who himself was indicted by the Police and finally was released by the Supreme Court. The present Chief Minister of UP was seen complaining about Police atrocities in the Parliament with tears in his eyes. It was expected that those who have experienced Police brutality would ensure more protection to the citizens, but the exact opposite scenario is before the Nation.

It is high time the Investigating Agencies are made accountable for their activities. The law for compensation and penalization for misuse of power needs to be made. Division of regular Police into Specialist Investigating Agency and Law and Order Facilitator is urgently required. The Golden Rule “Bail is Rule and Jail is an exception” must be restated for minor crimes or first-time offenders. Deletion of sedition law and clarity to the extreme laws like UAPA must be done.

The Freedom Fighters have sacrificed everything to make India a “Welfare State.” Unless and until a common man would start feeling safe in the presence of Police, the Nation cannot be said to be Welfare State. If the reforms are not made, and the rights of citizens cannot be protected, we would be facing the “Rise of Police State.”