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POLICE BRUTALITY (SERVE & PROTECT NOT HURT & NEGLECT)

By

Rethiga Ramesh, II year of B.A.,LL.B. from Vellore Institute of Technology, Chennai.


Introduction

There are a lot of things which need to be changed. One specifically? POLICE BRUTALITY. When the law enforcement officers exercise excessive force against a subject then it is known as police brutality. This can be legally defined as a civil rights violation. To balance the needs of security, a law enforcement officer (Police) must exercise reasonable force and not excessive force. Brutality is a level of violence that exceeds what is professionally necessary.


Pros and Cons

It depends on which side of the coin you are in. If you believe in freedom, equality, right to life and liberty, there are only Cons. If not, possibly you can list so many pros. According to my understanding…


Pros: None, because there is never a pro for brutality.

Cons: 1. Violence multiplies violence, it creates an unhealthy environment. According to section 19(1) (a) – the general public has all rights to protest peacefully if they are unhappy with the activities of the government. Example - CAA.

2. Police officers should shape their communities; instead, they are destroying it in all possible ways. This leads to a loss of trust.

3. Low moral environment, riots and a lot more.


The misuse of ‘Lathi charge’

Lathi is a stick-like thing which is made of bamboo. The term ‘Lathi charge’ describes a mode of attack favoured by Indian cops while attacking the protesters. Though it is not defined under IPC, Cr.P.C or the police act, it appears to be an essential item in every police men’s tool kit these days. The ultimate result of the misuse of Lathi charge is violence. Firstly, police brutality started with the misuse of Lathi charge. [i]


Discrimination of Rich and Poor

Poor people are often overlooked by police officers. They are targeted more by the police because police have a wrong mentality that no one will stand for the cause of poor people being abused or tortured. They torture only the poor and the middle-class people while the rich are always left out. People with wealth use their influence and money to come out of any sought of such problems.


Statistics

Police brutality in India increased by 28% in Modi’s government. According to the reports from the national crime records bureau, 427 people died in police custody between 2016 and 2019. However, many reports don’t fall in place.


Issues

1. Tuticorin violence(22 May 2018)– Cause: The protestors want Sterlite’s copper smelting unit in Tuticorin To shut down as it was causing environmental damage in that area.


Report states, “Tamil Nadu police shot anti-Sterlite protesters in the head, chest”.13 protesters were killed and 102 were left injured. According to the autopsy reports, half of them were shot from behind. Two others died after a bullet pierced the sides of their heads. The youngest to be killed in this protest is Snowline. A bullet entered the back of 17 years old Snowlin’s head and exited through her mouth. This incident was the deadliest at an environmental protest in India in a decade. The saddest part is, No police officers have been arrested or charged in connection with these killings. The Tamil Nadu government said, “Due to the unavoidable circumstances we had to take action to bring the situation under control”. Also a special deputy tahsildar and a zonal deputy tahsildar gave shooting orders during the protest. They’ve been transferred to other cities by the administration. It is suspected that the Tamil Nadu government may be a part of this brutal incident. [ii]


2. Jamia Millia Islamia attack (15 Dec 2019) - During the citizenship amendment act protest, police attacked the students who were both for & against the amendment of the act. Hundreds of police officers forcefully entered the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia. They also entered the university library and washrooms. In this process of violence, many parts of the university were ransacked by them. Students were being dragged and assaulted by the police. About two hundred students were injured. The police officers fractured many students’ hands and legs purposefully. There are multiple FIRs filed by students but no action has been taken against the police till date.[iii]


3. Sathankulam Issue (19 June 2020) - The police rounded up the father-son duo, 59 years-old Jeyaraj and 31 years-old Bennix because they kept their mobile shop open after 8 p.m., despite the restrictions imposed by the state government as a part of lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. They were taken to the police station, allegedly beaten, stripped naked and sodomized. Their knees were completely crushed and smashed with lathis. They were taken to the spot hidden from the CCTV coverage and steel-tipped wooden lathes were stuffed up their butt holes several times. According to the police statement, they both died because of heart failure and fever. Two cops have been suspended and few have been transferred. Suspension & transfer can never be a solution and never serve justice to people.[iv]

The first question that comes to my mind is whether an arrest was necessitated in this case?

Here, the reason that was given to Jeyaraj was that his shop was open after the curfew hours. This would only require either sealing of the shop or fining, which should’ve been the first or the only step that the police must’ve taken instead of arrest. During the arrest of Jeyaraj, his son was not even in the shop. He then visited his father, in prison after which Bennix got arrested too.


After all social media protests, one of the 10 policemen were arrested in connection with these killings. On August 10th, Special sub-inspector Paul Durai died of COVID-19 at GRH hospital in Madurai.

Remedies to avoid police brutality in their regime

It is important to know a few of our rights that must be kept in mind. According to Section 44, the criminal procedure code says that no external or extraordinary force must be used that is not necessary to prevent someone from fleeing custody.


1. Can a person be arrested without a warrant?

Under section 41-A, CrPC, a police officer, in all cases where the arrest of a person is not required under section 41(1), shall issue a notice directing the person against whom a reasonable complaint has been made or credible information has been received to appear before him.


2. What are your rights after you’ve been arrested?

Article 21 – Right to life which indirectly includes the right to a fair trial. Reason for arrest must be made clear to the concerned person at the time of the arrest. There are two kinds of offences, bailable and non-bailable. It is the police officer duty to inform the entitlement of bail at the time of the arrest.


3. Right to a legal counsel?

The state must appoint a legal practitioner at their own cost.

The person who got arrested can appoint a nominee or a friend or a relative who must be informed while he or she is being arrested.


Remedy

We can demand our government to sign the UN conventions against torture and inhuman treatment. We are one of those 9 countries who are still not a part of this convention. Every custodial death is a reminder that such conventions must be signed.


We can also demand that CCTV cameras must be made mandatory in all police stations. This will increase the evidence and therefore such custodial deaths can be reduced. These are some of the solutions that we can demand. We can ask for the intensification of police training. Also, the issues based on police brutality must be sensitized more. Counselling sessions based on the mandated and not mandated duties of police officers can be increased.


In 2006, the Supreme Court delivered a historic order, which implies that every state should have a police complaint authority to lodge misdemeanours committed by these police officers which only very few states have established. So we can demand our state government to establish this authority. 13 years after the recommendation was made, it was already established in November 2019. But the authorities responsible for taking the complaint are police officers themselves. Police complaint authority must be a retired high court judge. This will reduce the possibility of biased.


The unnecessary force used in the cases of Jamia Millia Islamia attack & Sathankulam issue was beyond the powers that have been conferred on the police officers and by any statute of law.

Whatever may be the justification for these activities of Custodial death and police brutality still cannot be accepted.


Critical analysis

Suspending killer cops is not enough, Convict them and let the law do its work.

The suspension is not a punishment. It is only the first step taken against the suspect. After the investigation, once these police officers are convicted for the crimes such as section 302 for murder, section 506(II) for criminal intimidation, and sec 120B for criminal conspiracy, they’ll be punished according to the Indian Penal Code. They’ll be imprisoned for 7 years or more. The judgment sentencing them for life is also possible. The suspension is just a temporary measure that has been taken until the trial is over or until the investigation is completed.

Conclusion

I strongly believe that any injustice against my sisters and brothers is an injustice to me. The term “brutality” itself means something wrong and evil. Police are here to protect us. But who will protect us from them? Yesterday it was college students, today it is Bennix and Jeyaraj and tomorrow it might be you or me. Thousands of innocent people were killed by police in India but had never been a mass protest. Police brutality is on the rise in India. It’s a high time that we should raise our voices against this to save many innocent lives.[v]

We can use social media as a tool to fight against any sought of injustice from our place. We can send mass emails to important people in the government, and an important person in the government, demanding for action &justice.

We must unite against such brutality in the context of innocent victims. I do believe that justice will be served one day, but the delay in getting it makes it meaningless for aggrieved parties.

Justice delayed is justice denied.



[i]https://thewire.in/law/the-misuse-of-lathi-charge-by-the-indian-police

[ii]https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/thoothukudi-sterlite-plant-verdict-a-comprehensive-coverage/article32391803.ece#:~:text=The%20Madras%20High%20Court%20on,2018%20due%20to%20environmental%20concerns.

[iii]https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/cab-protests-in-delhi-jamia-millia-islamia-turns-into-war-zone/cab-protests-in-jamia-millia-islamia-university/slideshow/72592267.cms

[iv]https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-tamil-nadu-police-custodial-torture-father-son-killed-thoothukudi-6479190/

[v]https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/why-cant-india-end-police-brutality/