Increasing Menace of Police Brutality
Author: Jigyasa Fonia National Law University, Odisha Editor: Priyal Sepaha Symbiosis Law School, Pune
In the Indian Constitution, the police come under the State subject which means they are controlled by the State governments. All the states and union territories in India have their police force. This enormous reservoir of a proficient workforce can become a catalyst of constructive change in society if they obey the rule of law and are held accountable for the wrongdoing, if they have committed any.
But today, the proficient workforce is setting an example of brutality and callousness in the country. Many events of viciousness, deaths in the police custody, killing of an individual in an encounter and extortion perpetrated by the police forces have come into the light. Police brutality is a clear violation of the constitutional rights of the citizenries. Brutality by the police forces takes place when they use immoderate force towards a citizen which is unnecessary. By immoderate force here means that the force that was used went over the minimum amount of force which was needed to be applied to diffuse an event or while protecting themselves from injuries and harm. This is known as police corruption which is a kind of police misconduct in which the police forces end up busting their political contract and misuse their power for personal benefits.
Police brutality is a grievous offence and there is a dearth of laws pertaining to police brutality. There are certain powers granted to the police forces and they are as follows–
Section 149 of The Criminal Procedure Code,1973 is regarding granting powers to the police for precluding cognizable offences.
Section 151 of CrPC authorizes the police to arrest the wrongdoers without any warrant.
Section 129 of CrPC is regarding granting powers to the police forces to use considerate force for dispersing unlawful assemblies only if the command given by the police forces were not followed at the first instance. The extent of the force that can be used is perfectly mentioned in the Police Manuals of the different states.
Section 132 of CrPC imparts that the state government holds the power of permitting the legal proceeding to be started against the police officer for an act perpetrated while dispersing the crowds.
Section 197 of CrPC imparts impunity to the police forces for acts they might have perpetrated while performing their duty.
Every country is somewhere or the other dealing with this predicament of police brutality and racism.
INCIDENTS OF OPPRESSIVE BRUTALITY
In India, police brutality is blatantly pervasive and last eight months are a clear demonstration of it. Below are the following instances where relentless brutality has been shown by the police forces-
Ferocious incident of brutality at Jamia Millia Islamia
Protests in the nation were going on against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). On 15th December 2019, Jamia Millia Islamia witnessed odious misuse of power by the police forces. Police and paramilitary forces stormed the gates of the Jamia to put an end to the protest of students, that too forcefully. The police forces bombarded tear gas, bullets of rubber, deliberately annihilated the whole property and students were subjected to lathi charge. Students were severely harmed and were hospitalized as they needed urgent medical care. Bullet wounds were found on the student’s body. A lot of videos and photo surfaced online which showed police forces using brutal force against the protestors. People across the nation condemn this act of brutality and student bodies across India too protested this inhumane act. During this time the whole nation was in turmoil and humanity just vanished from everyone’s mind.
Macabre tale of custodial death in Tamil Nadu
The father-son duo named Jeyaraj and Benicks died in police custody as they were brutally assaulted by the police officers. They were taken to the police station as their mobile shop remained open after 8 pm despite the restrictions that were imposed by the state government to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. So, for this act the father-son duo was beaten, unclothed and sodomized. Lawyers who were duo’s friends were denied entry into the station. The duo was brutally tortured by the police forces as the friends of the duo heard their painful cry for nearly three hours. Friends who were outside the station tried to peek through the door and what they saw was horrifying as Benicks was lying unclothed and blood was all around him. After hours of torture, father and son were taken to the hospital as they were bleeding from rectums and were not in a good state. The doctor was pressurised to make a medical certificate stating that the duo was fit and healthy. Before the district magistrate, this certificate was presented to get a nod to hold the duo on remand in the jail. But after a few days, they both fell ill and were admitted in the hospital. Unfortunately, both died a day apart from each other. This case was a clear violation of human rights that should never be allowed to happen in a democratic country.
There still exist several events where police forces have crossed the line and have caused harm to the civilians instead of protecting them. People who were protesting the CAA and NRC saw the cruelty and ruthlessness of the police forces. Every day there was a new episode of brutality during that time. During the lockdown, reports of brutality by the police forces came into light. Videos were surfaced online where the police forces were beating up the migrant workers who were going back to their states on foot. Many people who stepped out of their homes to buy essentials were beaten up by the police. The socially and economically weaker sections are the main victims of such brutality as they can be easily repressed.
NECESSITY OF A LEGISLATION TO CONTROL POLICE BRUTALITY
The series of events that occurred in the last few months raise a pertinent question before us relating to the validity of the extent of brutality and the police authority. All those events bring us to a question that what all checks do we have in place to stop police from misusing their power? Courts have earlier laid some guidelines for encounter killings and custodial deaths but still, no law has been formulated to protect the citizenries from this brutality. The National Police Commission (NPC,1977) in its report suggested that the complaints against the police officers must be handled by the Police Department itself. But Padmanabhaiah Committee (2000) pressurised on complainant having access to a non-statutory authority led by the District Magistrate if the complainant is not satisfied. In the case of Prakash Singh & Ors v Union of India and Ors, the court referred Sorabjee and Ribeiro Committee Report which was in favour of the existence of Public Complaints Authority (PCA) at the state and district level. The court instructed the Government to form PCA but only some states formed PCA.
The NPC also recommended removing the shield of protection which the police forces get against prosecution brought against them linking to the performance of their official duties. These all suggestions were put forth by the courts, but states never implemented them. Rule of law is the primordial attribute of our Constitution and no person including those who are designated to protect it, are permitted to devalue it and escape without facing any consequences on its violation. Considering recent disruption against the actions of police forces, it becomes utmost important to put in checks over occurrences of police brutality.
The police forces are provided with a considerable amount of leeway while performing their duties as they are for the protection of the public and to confront violent people. They are legally allowed to use physical force under specific conditions. But at the same time, if an officer misuses his power and uses force when is not required or uses more force than is required is certainly crossing the line into police brutality. People should be vigilant enough to know when our law enforcement officers are misusing their power and raise voice against their misconduct. Increasing cases of brutality in India calls for a legitimate authority that will keep a check on police performance and should make them accountable for their misdeeds. It’s time to ponder over our moral responsibility as a society and end this heinous game of brutality.
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 Sumithra Prasanna, ‘Why can’t India End Police Brutality?’, The Diplomat, 1 July 2020, accessed 26 July 2020 < https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/why-cant-india-end-police-brutality/>
 Prakash Singh & Ors v Union of India, 2006 (8) SCC 1