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India: Compel government to implement police reforms ordered by Supreme Court

by S R Darapuri, 9 July 2009

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Mail Today, 8 July 2009

On July 3, Dehradun police staged a fake encounter in which Ranveer Singh, an MBA graduate who was going to join his new assignment, was killed in cold blood. According to the details of the incident, the deceased along with one or two friends, as alleged by the police, were riding a motorbike. They were stopped by the police at a check post.

It appears that the police men misbehaved with them as usual and the boys might have objected to it.

This might have infuriated the policemen who may have tried to detain them. Out of fear, the boys might have sped away to escape torture at the hands of police.

At this, the police might have issued a lookout call on wireless.

Later on, one of the boys — Ranveer — may have been traced and taken into custody.

If this sequence of events is true as presumed, the simplest course of action by the police should have been to book the boys for an offence under the Motor Vehicles Act. Otherwise, if the vehicle papers were alright, even an admonition would have served the purpose. But as the policemen are often intoxicated on power, they don’t relish any opposition to their misbehaviour with the common man. Now, as the boys had objected to their misbehaviour and sped away, this might have infuriated the policemen, who decided to teach them a lesson as they often resort to. They tortured Ranveer Singh at the police station and when his condition worsened, they decided to stage an encounter.

This action of the police shows how authoritarian and power- drunk our police are. They can go to the extent of eliminating a person for small opposition to their autocratic ways. This is the general mindset of the police. They treat the ordinary citizen as a very insignificant being.

They are used to depriving the common man of his right to life and liberty without any fear of punishment.

The misdeeds of the subordinate ranks are ignored and overlooked by senior police officers who embolden them further. Often, senior officers connive with their subordinates in wrongdoings and if exposed, they go out of their way to defend them. It is also sometimes alleged by subordinate ranks that they are compelled by their senior officers to stage- manage fake encounters in order to show good work. In the present case, the police station staff could not have resorted to this type of action without the prior approval of senior officers.

Hence, with my experience in the police department, I can say that at present, there is not much difference in the mindset of the senior officers and the subordinate ranks.

Due to this, even IPS officers have lost their credibility in the eyes of the public. This mindset of senior and subordinate officers has been amply manifest in the Dehradun police encounter.

There is a lot of truth in the allegation that the police are the biggest violators of human rights of the citizens.

The police functions as the power arm of the state. There is a strong brotherhood within the police organisation to protect fellow wrongdoers. The police are often misused by ruling politicians to settle scores with their opponents.

Often slogans of “ People- Friendly Police” are painted on police vehicles; but a people- friendly police is totally impracticable in the present set- up. The need of the hour is to implement police reforms as ordered by the Supreme Court. The police might be given functional autonomy and made accountable as envisaged in the proposed reforms.

So far, due to their vested interests, politicians and bureaucrats have forestalled the implementation of police reforms. Civil society should come forward to compel the state governments to implement these reforms, else we will continue to be inflicted with Dehradun- type fake encounters.

The writer is a retired IPS officer