The term Police Brutality isn’t an uncommon term for the common folks in any country. Every country has tons of cases where the police exploit the power given to them for their selfishness or sick desires. The 2020 George Floyd case of the U.S.A. yet again proved on an international level that the authority which has been made to protect the citizen can be very lethal to the very citizens if strict measures aren’t taken. This case also states that police brutality isn’t limited to one place, it’s everywhere. In India, however, police brutality is so normalized that many times when people face brutality or abuse by police, they just count it as a bad experience and never report it in order to not face any drastic consequence for it. This behavior encourages the police to keep up with their abusive behavior which leads to some heinous crimes. One cannot blame the common public for not reporting as they are powerless in front of the police and simply fear for their safety. It is the job of the government to take actions regarding the safeguard of the common people in this matter however the authorities seem to be lacking in this area of supervision.
Factors leading to police brutality and the ineffective of law
The police system in India is very defective. According to the report given by common cause in 2019, the Indian police force is only at 77% of its sanctioned strength i.e. there is a huge shortage of policemen in India. Adding to this, there isn’t much incentive for them to work and show a better performance, everyone is in the race to get promoted to a better position in order to get a higher salary and additional benefits. This hunger to get promoted has also caused hundreds of lives as numerous policemen in India have staged fake encounters and tortured innocent people in jail to admit to crimes they didn’t even commit. In order to tackle these issues, the administration has established 6 committees so far including the National Police Commission. All these committees made many recommendations in favor of police reforms in India. Some of these include Gore Committee on Police Training (1971-73), The Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms (1998), the Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms, etc. All these recommendations and suggestions proved to be just mere suggestions as they weren’t able to stop the increasing brutality as seen in the Bhagalpur blinding case where the police in Bihar blinded 31 undertrials by pouring acid in their eyes or the Hashimpura Massacre where the police allegedly rounded up 42 Muslim youth, shot them dead and dumped their bodies in water canals. The more one reads into this the more gut-wrenching the stories get.
In a landmark case of Prakash Singh, the Supreme Court in 2006 highly emphasized the much-needed police reforms all over India. They gave a 7-point Directive to both the Center and the State. But even after a decade of this judgment, all states didn’t even comply with these directives as the Commonwealth Human rights Initiative (CHRI) noted. From 2006, as it was noted, till In 2018 only 18 states passed the new police acts, and even the states which reformed, didn’t completely follow the directives given by the Supreme Court. The lack of political will into bringing some reform into this area is very obvious and saddening.
Recent Examples of the increasing Police Brutality in India
With changing times, one would think that more progress will come into action and things may get better but it isn’t the case regarding police brutality in India. The Tamil Nadu Custodial death case is enough to prove this point. In the June of 2020, the Tamil Nadu Police took a 60-year-old shop owner and his son after some remarks regarding the closing of shops at a certain time during the lockdown. They were beaten and tortured for 3 days by apparently 13 people and on June 22, 23 both the father and son succumbed to their injuries. FIRs were filed but no police officers were booked on murder charges.
Just recently in the month of May 2021, another case made headlines where a retired army officer accused the Bareilly police officers of abusing and torturing him in custody after an argument on road. The policeman was later suspended. These are just a very few examples of the many existing cases a lot of which get ignored. According to the information and data provided by the National Campaign against Torture in their annual report of 2019, there were a total of 1,731 custodial deaths in India. Out of the 1,731 deaths, 1,606 people died in judicial custody while 125 died in police custody. That amounts to almost 5 deaths every day. The report also stated that the most common ways of torture are electric shock, hammering the victim’s hands with nails, applying chili powder to eyes and bruises, branding with iron, etc. Earlier reports have stated that on average 96 people die in custody every year. Further, the National Human Rights Commission’s annual reports from 1996-97 and 2017-2018, it was found out that 71% of the victims of custodial deaths are either from poor or marginalized communities. All this only shows how much police brutality in India is intact and as days go by it’s only becoming much more violent.
Nothing will change till the government takes strict actions against the perpetrators, till they take the lives of the common folks seriously. The above example states that both the law and government don’t take police brutality seriously. The Prakash Singh case was filed in 1996, its judgment came out a decade later, and still to this day there hasn’t been full compliance to the directives. This is enough to showcase just how much interest there is in this sector by the authorities. The Police Act of 1861 is also outdated and weak. It needs some sort of amendment or should be replaced with legislation that has proper provisions according to the changing times of democratic India.