In this dark era of crimes, the police force serves as the primary shield responsible for maintaining peace & safety in society. However, the situation today is somewhat different as the protectors of the society have become the enemy themselves. Where once people used to feel safe under police, today they are afraid of them. Police brutality has been soaring higher than ever where police have been known to use excessive force, during apprehension or interrogation of a suspect or any other police procedure. (HG.org, n.d.) Where one may be physically, mentally, or verbally assaulted which is not misconduct on the part of the police but is done intentionally in bad faith to dehumanize and degrade the target. (Bandes, 1999)
Use of brutal force by the police is not a concept. Incidents of police using excessive or deadly force can be dated back to the 1870s during the Industrial Revolution, when the workers were physically assaulted by the police during strikes. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a pattern of violence against the individuals in lower socioeconomic levels and the socially marginalized began to form which emerged with the worker’s strike. During the movements of 1960, police dogs and high-powered water guns were used by the police to contain the civilians. Not only did the police indulge in inhumane methods to oppress labour strikes but also police brutality against those who challenged big industrialists was/became permitted/acceptable. From time and again, the working-class people were brutalized and arrested without cause. Even in the civil rights era, the police used same tactics as spraying down activists with water hoses or even use police dogs to supress them. (Mishra, 2019) A report published by the Asian Centre for Human Rights, recorded a total number of 14,231 deaths from 2001 to 2010 in police/judicial custody implying four deaths per day occur in police custody. But a recent report states that National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has registered a total of 1674 cases of custodial death between April 2017 and February 2018 increasing the death per day from four to five, which included 1530 deaths in judicial custody and 144 deaths in police custody, out of which Uttar Pradesh had the highest count of custodial deaths in the country with a total of 374 deaths. (Deshpande, 2020)
The question that arises now is why does police brutality occur on such a large scale? There are various reasons for which police may indulge in brutality. One such reason is the corruption of police officials. The culture of corruption is widely fostered by their low salaries, along with very few incentives or perks. Under the ambit of corruption, the police have gained notoriety for boldly misusing their authority to attain exceptional treatments by giving threats of arrest and extorting favours & services from sellers, drivers, and even those who are looking for police’s help, without fear of disciplinary actions. Hierarchical culture being a significant contributing component to abuse of power by the police has been enduring and advancing the abuse of authority. (Marwah S. , 2012) One of the factors that aids to such kind of corruption is the inability to record these instances of unlawful coercion. Mostly these go undocumented, except the spurious cases that are made to harass individuals who did not agree to unlawful requests. The prevailing corruption culture has formed a paradox, where today the police officials consider themselves as agents of the state more than servants of society.
The police in India still stays a disregarded and abused minority, who are denied the most fundamental working conditions where a police officer is ineffectively paid and endures troublesome working conditions. Without a doubt, consequently, huge numbers of the unlawful actions committed by police are because of a gigantic level of dissatisfaction in the lower rungs of the power. (Pal, 1993) The frustration from various institutional factors and the job itself which involves dealing with criminals & offenders on daily basis, causes an emotional imbalance which clouds the judgement of the police officials causing them to contemplate each person as a perpetrator. Now and again, this frustration and emotional imbalance emerge out in the form violence or police brutality. Another explanation behind the continuous use of excessive force by police is the absence of proper training, where under training the police are only taught to battle as fighters where they are more centred around threatening individuals as opposed to protecting them.
The primary motivation behind why police brutality focuses on a specific section of the society is the adaptation of social segregation in the police force, like in the case of Deepak Bundele, a lawyer who on March 23, 2020, was beaten up brutally by the state police in light of the fact that he was confused with a Muslim because of his facial hair. Shockingly, the cops with all due respect disclosed to Bundele that he was beaten unintentionally on the grounds that they thought he was a Muslim, and it was just an instance of mixed up personality. (Niazi, 2020)
Now the question arises, how can police use excessive power despite having a legal framework in place? The answer to this is straightforward; the lack of accountability and the acceptance of these corrupt & abusive practices of police officials. The widespread impression of a malfunctioning criminal justice framework is one of the reasons behind why the public doesn’t object when the police resort to illicit methods such as fake encounters, for example, extrajudicial killings “Police are urged to accomplish the grimy work of the society on the grounds that the criminal justice framework isn’t working and redesigning of the whole administration of justice is a too big of a task”. (Arzt, 2016) The failure of the Indian criminal justice framework now and again to give adequate police remand for a suspect for a thorough examination, sometimes tempts the police authority to capture the suspect illicitly. From this, a pattern of illegal activities begins where one unlawful activity is trailed by another to such an extent where the whole division inside and outside supports this strategy. (Marwah V. , 1998)
Now we ought to ask ourselves, why are the police authorities not arraigned despite the fact that the instances of police brutality are at its pinnacle today? The reason why there are such rare cases of police prosecutions is the reluctance to prosecute police officials. In many cases, the prosecutors and other officials are reluctant to bring charges against a police officer in light of the fact that there is a working connection between them. Presently, even if the charges are pressed against such officials, the charges are dismissed under the great confidence barrier where the responsibility of the official is waived off on the grounds that “he was doing what he thought was best at the time”. In vast majority of the cases, the conviction of a cop is prevented on the grounds of credibility of the person in question, since the victim is an indicted criminal, criminal suspect or belongs to a marginalised community of the society, their credibility is compromised before the court. (Miller, 1998)
The legal provisions of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) provide a wide array of powers to the police officials which are often misused by them, like Section 54 of CrPC, which states that: any police officer may arrest without a warrant, such person who has been concerned in any cognizable (indictable) offense or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists of his being so concerned in whose possession anything is found which may reasonably be suspected to be stolen property. (S.54, CrPC (1973)) Most of the police officials under the provision of section 54, conduct false arrests for example, the case Easih Mia & Anr. v. Tripura Administration, where Suraj Mia, a Pakistani national was falsely arrested under section 54 of CrPC on the suspicion that he might commit some cognizable offence in India because he is a Pakistani, which is not a reasonable suspicion for an unwarranted arrest. (Easih Mia v. Tripura Administration, 1962)
Police officials are under the protection of Section 197 (S.197, CrPC (1973)) and Section 132 (S.132, CrPC (1973)) of the CrPC, where authorization is required from the Central or the State Government before any criminal proceeding is initiated against a cop affirmed to have carried out a criminal offense “while acting or implying to act inside the release of his official obligation”. The safeguard under section 197 and section 132 of CrPC are often misused by cops like in the case of, Jaysingh Wadhu Singh v. Province of Maharashtra a case where the cop who committed an offense claimed that the alleged wrongdoing had an immediate nexus with the exhibition of an official obligation, raising the defence of section 197 of CrPC. Yet in another case P.P. Unnikrishnan v. Puttiyottil Alikutty where two cops were blamed for having kept a complainant unlawfully in lock-up for a few days and kept tormenting him. In this case, the cops raised defence under section 64 of the Kerala Police Act (S.64, Kerala Police Act (1960)) wherein there are procedural shields against initiation of legal proceedings against a cop who is acting in good faith in compliance of the duty imposed or authority conferred by the state (Centre for law & policy research).
With the help of such provisions, police perpetrate violence. The brutalities vary from wrongful search & seizure to false arrest & wrongful imprisonment and torture during interrogation. Torture during interrogation is a common practice in India by police, paramilitary, and other law enforcement agencies. The torture includes various techniques from beating canes on the bare soles of feet to inserting live wires into body crevices and forcing the victim to drink his excreta to stripping the victim, blackening his face & parading him in public. (Arora, 1999) In the case of State of Maharashtra v. Ravi Kant Patil, an under-trial detainee was cuffed, arm attached with a rope, and strutted through the boulevards, being exposed to outrage, and faced embarrassment.
There have been many instances where torture has also lead to the death of the victims in the custody. Like in the case Saheli v. Commissioner of Police, a nine-year old child died after being severely beaten up by the police. (Centre for law & policy research). Apart from torture, false encounters and open firing on mobs have also been on the rise, for example in Kashmir- a separatist group invoked violence, and police initiated live fire against the agitated mob. Also in Punjab, almost 25000, people were killed in the name of counterterrorism. (Marwah S. , 2012) Most of the police officials’ resort to such practices as to them, they seem the easiest devices to earn rewards and recognition in the society.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has discovered proof of the widespread use of torture and excessive force by the Indian police, implying that ‘the most obvious arm of the Indian state is as untamed and insufficient as those that exist in ruined, postcolonial states far & wide’. (Marwah S. , 2012) All these police brutalities are violations of basic human rights and to protect these rights, National Police Commission (NPC) has made various recommendations to the Indian government which till date have not been implemented. Even more so, no effective steps have been taken to keep in check the torture and other forms of violence in police custody. (Pal, 1993)
CONCLUSION & SUGGESTIONS
Police brutality which is one of the hot issues of this country has been far too neglected. There is a need to reform not only the legal structure but also the social structure of the society. The civilians, who don’t know their rights, think that the police have the authority to do so and succumb to their demands. Making the general public aware of their rights and the extent to which police authority exists will help reduce the illegitimate use of potency by the police officials.
The culture of discrimination adopted by police seems to target a particular section of society i.e. minorities of an ethnicity, culture, or race. To eliminate this culture, it is imperative to change the mindset of the police officials, making them more professional and free from prejudice. Along with which it also essential to maintain cultural and racial diversity in the police force so as to reduce the cruelty directed towards a particular minority. Presently, the police have a very low reservation of minorities so to ensure diversity, it is required that all the minorities shall be provided with adequate reservation quotas. Hence, we should improve the existing reservation quota and similarly provided estimated quotas for other minorities ensuring that the force is well diversified.
One of the essential reasons for corruption as discussed before is the poor state of police officials. So to curb this, it is imperative that the current state of police is improved by providing them with proper salaries, adequate resources, better working conditions and most importantly a proper training. Through this proper training it should be ensured that the police are unbiased professionals who ensure safety and peace in the society.
Presently in a case of police brutality one has the remedy of filing a complaint under National or State Human rights commission or under High court or Supreme court. (Ahmad, 2020) Complaint can be filed under High court or Supreme court under various sections of IPC like section 325 which talks about grievous hurt (S.325 IPC, (1860)), section 509 talks about criminal intimidation (S.509 IPC, (1860)) accompanied by section 294 that deals with obscene language (S.294 IPC, (1860)). Presently there is no specific procedure established in CrPC for the investigation of wrongdoings of a police official. Only having few sections is not enough, in the long run, reforms and amendments of present laws is essential which should keep the power of the police under check by increasing accountability of police officials. These reforms ensure that there are no loopholes which can be used by police to get away with their wrongdoings.
Most of the time, the investigation of such cases is done by the police itself where there are high chances that the police official investigating such cases might be biased. So to prevent such an instance from happening, establishing independent redressal forums is essential. Such redressal forums will not only ensure that police are held accountable for their actions but also that the investigation is conducted in a bias and prejudice free manner. Only then, the police who have gotten away with their unjustifiable acts of cruelty for far too long, shall now be brought to justice.
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The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
The Indian Penal Code, 1860