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The Supreme Court recently observed that the 2022 incident of 4 Gujarat Police officers publicly flogging Muslim men after tying them to a pole in Kheda district for allegedly disrupting a garba event amounted to an “atrocity”.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. SC Observations on Kheda Flogging Incident: Upholding Human Rights in Policing
  2. Police Reforms in India: Navigating Challenges
  3. Issues Associated with Police Forces
  4. Recommendations for Police Reforms

SC Observations on Kheda Flogging Incident: Upholding Human Rights in Policing

  • Legal Challenge: Police officers appealed to the Supreme Court (SC) challenging a Gujarat High Court order that sentenced them to 14 days’ imprisonment for contempt of court.
  • Contempt Ruling: The officers’ actions were deemed contemptuous, violating the SC’s 1996 D.K. Basu judgement, which addresses police abuse and custodial violence.
D.K. Basu Verdict (1996):
  • Legal Foundation: The D.K. Basu judgement underscored the imperative to shield individuals from torture and abuse by law enforcement agencies.
SC’s Stance on Kheda Flogging:
  • Legitimate Police Duties: The SC acknowledged the police’s legal duty to arrest and interrogate criminals during investigations.
  • Human Rights Imperative: However, the SC emphasized that the law strictly prohibits the use of third-degree methods or torture on individuals in custody during interrogations, emphasizing the commitment to protecting human rights in policing.

Police Reforms in India: Navigating Challenges

Historical Perspective:
  • Long-Standing Issue: Police reforms have been a persistent subject on the governmental agenda since India’s independence.
  • Challenges: Over the decades, the police force has faced criticism for being selectively efficient, exhibiting a lack of empathy toward the underprivileged, and experiencing issues related to politicization and criminalization.
  • Legacy Framework: The foundational framework for policing in India dates back to 1861, with limited modifications since then.
Contemporary Realities:
  • Dynamic Society: Significant societal transformations have occurred since the enactment of the original police framework.
  • Multiplying Expectations: Evolving public expectations demand a police force that is responsive, efficient, and capable of addressing emerging challenges, including newer forms of crime such as cybercrimes.
Need for Reform:
  • Adaptation: The existing policing system requires comprehensive reforms to align with present-day scenarios.
  • Modernization: Upgrading the police force is essential for effectively dealing with contemporary forms of crime and criminals, ensuring the protection of human rights, and safeguarding the legitimate interests of all citizens.

Issues Associated with Police Forces:

  • Custodial Deaths:
    • Refers to fatalities occurring while a person is in police custody.
    • Despite a decline in previous years, a sharp rise to 175 custodial deaths was reported in 2021-22.
  • Excessive Use of Force:
    • Instances of police using excessive force leading to injuries and fatalities.
    • Lack of proper training and oversight contributes to misuse of force.
  • Corruption and Misconduct:
    • Corruption within the police force, including bribery and misconduct, erodes public trust.
    • High-ranking officials and lower-ranking officers implicated in corrupt practices.
  • Legal Framework and Corruption:
    • Laws creating conditions for police corruption, particularly in relation to banned substances like alcohol.
    • Increased profitability and law enforcement discretion contribute to corrupt practices.
  • Trust Deficit:
    • Significant trust deficit between police and the community affecting cooperation and information sharing.
    • High-profile cases of police misconduct contribute to public skepticism and mistrust.
  • Extrajudicial Killings (‘Encounter’):
    • Instances of extrajudicial killings by the police, commonly known as ‘encounter.’
    • No legal provisions in Indian law legalize encounter killings.
    • Increased cases, with 151 reported in 2021-2022 compared to 82 in 2020-2021.

Recommendations for Police Reforms:

  • Police Complaint Authority:
    • Establishment directed by the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh v/s Union of India case (2006).
    • Authorized to investigate misconduct by police officials of various ranks.
  • Separation of Functions:
    • Supreme Court directive for the separation of investigation and law and order functions in police.
    • Creation of State Security Commissions (SSC) with civil society members for improved policing.
  • National Security Commission:
    • Recommendation by the Supreme Court for the formation of a National Security Commission.
  • National Police Commission (1977-1981):
    • Made recommendations for police reforms, emphasizing functional autonomy and accountability.
  • Ribero Committee (1998):
    • Constituted on Supreme Court’s directions to review police reform actions.
    • Endorsed major recommendations of the National Police Commission with modifications.
  • Malimath Committee (2000):
    • Made 158 recommendations for criminal justice system reforms.
    • Suggested the establishment of a central law enforcement agency.
  • Model Police Act (2006):
    • Mandates the establishment of an authority in each state.
    • Comprising retired High Court judges, civil society members, retired police officers, and public administrators from another state.
    • Focuses on functional autonomy, professionalism, and accountability in police agencies.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024