India’s nearly two-month-long lockdown, which was partially lifted, took the spotlight on the country’s beleaguered police force like never before. Excluding Kashmir and parts of the north-east, curfews usually extended for not more than a few days. There has not really been another instance where the police were handed the power—for such an extended period of time—to decide who could or could not be on the streets.
The job of the police is hectic and repressive with a lot of challenges and it is alright to lose patience once in a while but unleashing tantrums on any local citizen is not acceptable.
While we tend to understand that the police face so many challenges while dealing with the citizens but assaulting is wrong on its part.
During the lockdown, police brutality resulted in the loss of life in Bengal. People were beaten up in Gujarat and Maharashtra and even a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was not spared in Bihar.
In Nagaland, a railway police officer assaulted a newspaper reporter and asked him if was a Muslim because he asked an innocuous question. Usually, snaps of the poorest, getting beaten up at checkpoints across the country have circulated, as have videos on WhatsApp showing such purported assaults.
A recent showing of police brutality in Bihar, where the farmers were beaten up in front of their children for farming on government land and drank poison to counteract the horrific loss.
The courts have intervened regarding encounter killings in Gujarat and Manipur. Maharashtra has seen its encounter specialists fall from grace. Still, in recent years, the problem of fake encounters has spread to newer places like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
Force of Reason?
Is the use of excess force illegal in India? Of course! The only protection given to police personnel in Indian law is under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which mandates prior sanction from the government before a person can be prosecuted in Court for actions purporting to be done in their official capacity.
Otherwise, a policeman thrashing somebody with a lathi is as liable legally as anybody thrashing anybody. Further, injuring or threatening to injure somebody to obtain a confession (Sec 330), or keeping somebody in wrongful confinement (Sec 340), that is, illegal detention are also specified as separate offences under the Indian Penal Code
However, the solution of the problem lies in making the police a better, more efficient and responsible force. This is the kind of bottom-up police reform that is urgently required. This is also the kind of police reform that unfortunately is not being talked about.
What is the standard for the use of physical violence against a citizen by the representative of the state?
Article Written By Ompriya Sahoo
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