Only half a year is gone, but it has brought us sorrows of a century. The horrible deaths of Jayaraj and his son Bennicks is a new violent chapter about the disturbingly repeating accounts of police brutality in India. I could not finish listening to the distressing account of the alleged custodial torture which had allegedly led to the death of father-son duo, the first time I heard it. It was so horrific that, I had to stop listening to it in between.
Like many, I also want to believe, this year does not exist in my timeline. We saw migration of human beings for kilometers on foot, with no food and water; with nothing left in their hands except marks of hard labour. Their flesh burned on the tarred roads. We saw people dying in huge numbers day by day and the leaders immersed in throwing dirt at each other. We saw children eating grass. Then we also saw government looting people in the name of poor, and the rich being spared from spending their wealth. We saw man pleading of breath under the chockholds of power. We saw people being killed brutally, torturing ech inches of their body by the men in uniform, who had sworn to protect them. We saw our lands being encroached. We saw denials. We saw miseries, everywhere.
But the fate Jayaraj and Bennicks had suffered surpasses all boundaries. Is there any humanity left in us? As per newspaper reports, father and Son were taken into custody alleging that they kept mobile shop open beyond the permitted hours. What happened next is beyond human imagination.
Brutal custodial murders are not isolated incidents in India. It is a recurring phenomena. The Hindu had reported that, 1,731 custodial deaths happened in India in 2019 and that would mean that five deaths happens in India, in such manner daily. This is the outcome of a rotten and barbaric policing culture followed by many of the police officers.
One of the main reasons for repetition of these incidents are the lack of evidences, which makes it impossible for the prosecution (if any) to win. This gives a feeling of security to the criminal minds present among the police. Marshal Miller in his article ‘Police Brutality’ has listed the reasons for lack of success faced by the prosecutions in cases of police brutality. According to him “evidentiary problems render prosecutions of police officers difficult to win and thus infrequently brought” and “institutional pressures work against local criminal prosecutions”. He adds that this is “because of their close working relationship”. That is the reason why cleansing of the police department is as important as prosecuting the accused officers. Because, most often the undemocratic and corrupt elements present in a system will actively work towards rescuing the offenders.
Custodial deaths are not the only thing to be prevented. The police force all over the world are being accused of unwanted arrests, custodial rapes, harassment, non-registration of cases and the list goes on. Strategic reforms aiming at removing the criminal and illegal elements from the police is the only effective solution for all these.
Discussion on police reforms is not new in India. It started even before independence. From time to time, new suggestions were put forth and few of them got implemented as well. The first post-independence committee on police reforms were set up in Kerala, in the year 1959 and many other states followed suit. In 1971, Gore Committee on Police training was appointed and thereafter, in the year 1977 National Police Commission was appointed. When the recommendations by the National Police Commission were being ignored, seeking implementation of those, public interest litigation was filed before the Supreme Court of India. This resulted in the iconic judgment of Prakash Singh v Union of India (2006) .During the pendency of said case two committees were appointed, namely Ribeiro Committee in 1998 by the Supreme Court and Malimath Committee on reforms of Criminal Justice System in India, 2003 appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Apex court had issued seven directives in Prakash Singh case for Police reforms. They include, constituting State Security Council to ensure that to prevent State Government from exercising unwarranted influence or pressure on police, appointing State police chief based on merit and through a transparent process ensuring at least a tenure of two years, separation of investigation and law and order wing in police, Police Complaint authority to enquire into the complaints against police.
But many of the States were reluctant and slow to even pass laws for implementing the Supreme Court directions. The Supreme Court had to appoint a committee to monitor the steps taken by states, after two years of monitoring the implementation process by the court itself. This committee had once expressed its dismay before the Supreme Court stating that only 17 states chose to enact an Act, to implement the directions in the judgment. This shows the attitude of the Government towards reforming the Police Force. Incidents like Thuthukkudi deaths shows that, the reforms are yet to reach the ground level. Even now there are many promises of reformation are remaining unfulfilled.
The reluctance to remove criminal elements from the force has cost us many lives . It is threatening the security of the citizens, thereby negating the very purpose of having a police force. It is high time to take steps. The training given to police should also focus on instilling humility and constitutional values in them. The should be focus on rescuing the force from intrusion by corrupt elements and punishing the offenders in Uniform.#justiceforJayarajandBennicks.