Shouaib Ahmed, New Delhi RINA):National Social Watch (NSW) a civil society organization organized a policy dialogue and released the“Social Watch India Perspective Series Vol.:3”, on “Are the Indian police a law unto themselves?” at India International Centre.
Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General of India, Supreme Court was the keynote speaker while Seema Mustafa, senior journalist; Dr. K.S.Subramanian, author of the report; Amitabh Behar, National Convenor of Social Watch India; N.K. Singh, I.P.S. Retd and Kamal Chenoy Chairperson, Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, School of International studies, JNU were presented as the panelists.
While releasing the reportMs. Indira Jaising,said “decriminalization of crime happens at the police station itself by saying that this is a family matter”. She further maintained that Police Act of 1861 says, ‘neglect of duty will be dealt by government’. But there is no clarity of definition of Neglect of Duty. On the other hand she also praised the police by saying that the Indian police are very good in maintaining the police dairies and recording things.
Dr. K.S.Subramaniansaid “According to National Human Rights Commission, among 70,000 complaints, most of them are against police every year”. He maintained that in UP Extra Judicial Execution are more than 201 per year and in Manipur its more than 300 Extra Judicial Executions.
He also said “recommendation to create the Independent Police Complaint Authority at the district level should be maintained but only 12 states have done it but they are in very bad condition”.
Amitabh Behar,pointed out that there is a tremendous decline in the Civil Society initiatives on civil and political rights. Most of them are focusing on social and cultural rights.
Seema Mustafatalked about the role of Indian media and maintained that in 1980s media used to work as a watchdog of the police and the other government institutions. Media used to do the job of NGOs.
While sharing her experience, Seema Mustafa said that police was literally retreating during the violence in Assam and Punjab. There was no police at all in the streets. And in Uttar Pradesh several times there was the Police Arm Constabulary against Muslims during the communal riots.
She also maintained “Hundreds of young boys were killed by police in Kashmir but not a single policeman was suspended or questioned for their actions.”
N.K. Singh, defended the Indian police by saying that attitude of public towards the police should be changed and we should also look at the figures like how many policemen were killed while protecting the civilians in Kashmir.
Kamal Chenoy highlighted the points that retired bureaucrats and police officers are appointed as members of commissions like National Human Rights Commission etc. there is not even a single member of civil society organizations, in such conditions we cannot expect these commissions to operate at their optimum level.
The Social Watch Perspective report pointed out that subordinate police are constantly converted into instrument of human rights violation and torture by their superiors; clear separation of investigation from law and order is required; heavy reliance on the police force in Gujarat since 1981 to deal with communal and caste violence had led to politicization of police; politicization of the Indian police from inside and outside occurs within a context of growing socio-political violence; political parties almost inevitably organize the riots; their increasing incidence makes professional policing increasing less likely; Indian police are characterized as a ‘law unto themselves’ and ‘dangerous anachronism’.
The report also gives the policy recommendations like to improve conditions for rank and file officials because low ranking police officials are overworked and often exhausted due to the requirement that they be available for duty 24 hours a day; create a culture that rewards respect for human rights and professional conduct; create a system of effective independent investigations into complaints of police abuse and misconduct; repeal Laws that encourage impunity and require the reading of rights to suspects and put safeguards in place to deter torture.
Nearly 60 people representing civil society organizations, eminent individuals and scholars were present. The programme was ended by vote of thanks by Mr. Himanshu Jha, National Coordinator of Social Watch India.