• Lex Specialis

LAW AGAINST POLICE FEROCITY: THE URGENT NEED OF POLICE REFORMS IN INDIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

- Rohit Jain*


BACKGROUND


The internal security of a nation is very much reliant on the prerogative of the police. But, what if these exceptional powers of the police put a question on the credibility of the rule of law?


In recent times, there had been a hype in the grisly stories of bloodcurdling police viciousness. The incidents that had happened in the last few months have elevated a very crucial question before us with regard to the legitimacy of police brutality. May it be the case of Vikas Dubey's encounter in Kanpur, the custodial death of father and son in Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad rape accused encounter, the ferocity of police in Jamia Millia Islamia, or the high handedness of police during the lockdown, all puts us in a conundrum regarding the objectivity and credentials of the police in bringing Justice.


DISCOVERING POLICE: THE CONTEXT


Police is a class of officers, working under the civil authorities of the government. They are certainly accountable for maintaining law and order, public safety, preventing, detecting and investigating criminal activities prevailed in the society. All these tasks of police are called policing. According to the Black's Law Dictionary, "Police is an administrative function of that branch of government which is empowered with the duty of preserving public order, the advancement of public health safety, and prevention and punishment of crimes".


Under the Indian context, police and other allied institutions are a matter of state list under the Seventh Schedule {List II, Entry 2} of the Constitution. As an outcome of which the police is controlled by the state governments, and accordingly all the states have their separate police laws. It must be noted that the above say does not mean that the Union Government does not have any power to control the police. Article 355 of the constitution empowers the central government to protect the states from internal aggression as, and accordingly, the union government also has the power to issue directions to the state police.


THE UP-SURGING PLIGHTS OF EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS IN INDIA


In an unpretentious sense, the word extrajudicial killing means killing someone without following an appropriate legal course of action, it may also be called as retaliatory killings or encounter killing. In recent times, we have come across various such cases of extrajudicial killings like the Kanpur Encounter of Vikas Dubey, Hyderabad Encounter of four rape accused, etc. Various peoples around the nation applauded these encounters. But probably everybody forgets that all these encountered people were prefixed with the word 'accused'. They were yet not convicted for the crimes by the court of law. If police personnel are going to take such decisions on their own, then why do we have the courts, the trials? This tendency of extrajudicial killings is awfully alarming. Profound reforms are requisite for such circumstances.


The biggest reason for these up surging extrajudicial killings is public support. General public backs these 'so-called encounters' because of their low faith in the Indian Judicial System as they fail to furnish timely justice. Another substantial reason behind these increasing extrajudicial killings is the political support of the government to keep up the law and order in society. The ineffectiveness of the judiciary and the human rights commissions is yet another defining reason due to which there had been hype in these fake encounters.


DISCERNING THE RIGHTS OF POLICE IN REFERENCE TO ENCOUNTERS


Under Section 96 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) the police personnel certainly do have the right to injure or kill a person, but this right of injuring or killing a person can be exercised solely or exclusively for the purpose of self-defence or when there is an impending danger to the life of the officer. Further under Section 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Crpc) authorizes the police personnel to use force as may be required to arrest an individual who has been accused of any crime that is punishable with life imprisonment or the death penalty. But this right can only be exercised when any person is to be arrested, not after an accused is detained by the police officer.


IS PUBLICALLY KILLING OF GANGSTERS OR RAPISTS A JUSTIFIABLE ACT?

As per the principle of rule of law, and even the worst person of the nation will not be alienated, an event he is entitled to receive the Due Process of Law, Human Rights. Every individual does have the right to a fair trial. Even the SC had stated that the police or any other person do not have any right to kill anyone.


Luckily, we have a very exquisite Penal system in our nation, which stipulates the punishment for almost all the crimes. With these penal provisions and other laws in different statutes, we cannot give away to these obsolete ways justice. The decision regarding whether the offenders should be given severe punishment must be left on our learned judges.


CONCERNS REGARDING THE FUNCTIONING OF POLICE

  1. Nexus between Criminals and Politics: The nexus between the criminals and the political leaders have normalized the idea of a well-formulated killing by the police force. We are living in an era where the Chief Ministers of few states are openly saying that the “criminals will be killed in the encounter”. This displays the distressing increase in Human Rights Violations across the nation. The Vohra Committee Report had already highlighted the nexus between criminals and politicians.

  2. Lack of Resources: Comptroller and Auditor General’s report of 2016 clearly indicates that there is a deficiency of weaponry with the state police. More specifically, in Rajasthan, the state weaponry goes short for 75%. Further, the funds sanctioned for modernization of this weaponry are certainly not utilized entirely.

  3. Overburdened Police: As per the reports of Times of India, since 2019, the Rajasthan State Police force, (in Jaipur area) had faced a shortage of police force. Around 26% of the posts in the state police force stand vacant. The total sanctioned numbers of police force in the state is 43179, but only 32087 posts are filled.


WHY THERE IS A NEED OF POLICE REFORM?


As we all know that the internal security of a nation is very much reliant on the prerogative of the police. And thus to incentivize the police departments there is an exclusive need for reforms in the Police Laws. Further, the majority of the state has been following the Indian Police Act, 1861 (with few modifications), which was framed by the Britishers, who largely aimed to squash dissent. Moreover, Police have become the issue of dispute between the parliament and the state legislator, due to which there had been a high politicization in Police.


As India is rapidly proceeding towards becoming an economically and politically major power, our police force cannot endure being frozen. Few points which bring out the urgency of implementing police reforms are as under:

  1. Advancement of technological devices fueled with internet facilities, as there had been a frequent upsurge in Social Media crimes.

  2. Strengthening the investigation capacities, by providing appropriate infrastructures and other facilities.

  3. The need for building up our criminal justice system

  4. Independence of Police from political matters.


JUDICIAL PERSPECTIVE


It may be helpful to have a glance at the observations of the Apex Court in regards to Police Actions. In the Landmark case of Om Prakash vs. the State of Jharkhand the Apex court clearly stated that any police act which liquidates the criminals and makes it look like an encounter will amount to state-sponsored terrorism. In the case of Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar the court observed that the police have not gone away from its colonial image and is yet considering its power and independence as a mean of harassment.


CONCLUSION


On denouement, it can be said that there is an urgent need to carry out Police reforms in the Indian Criminal Justice System. Any more delay in bringing out the reforms may lead to various such cases of police ferocity. Along with it, there is a need for structuring an independent and political free environment for the police force in India, so that they can serve the general public as well.


*Rohit Jain is a student at Bharati Vidyapeeth University's New Law College, Pune.


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