The incidence of police brutality, abuse of power and pre-trial detention in
India has always remained a serious issue of human rights violations and has
increased manifold in the recent past. The police are the most important law
enforcement agency entrusted with preventing and detecting crime within a
country. The police must maintain law and order in society and ensure peace.
More often than not, one comes across news of manhandling and illegal detention
by the police of innocent persons. There is mounting national and international
pressure to protect and conserve certain basic human rights of all individuals.
Physical and verbal abuse
The recent case of custodial death in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin of the father-son
duo, P. Jayaraj and J. Benicks, has brought into light the need for generating
awareness regarding the protection of human rights of persons in custody.
Jayaraj and Benicks were taken into custody for violating Covid-19 curfew hours
and died in custody two days after their release. The family suspected that they
had been tortured. According to the family, the duo was taken to a government
hospital on 20thJune 2020, where they were found in bad shape, and their pants
were soaked in blood.
As the gruesome details became known, the case sparked
outrage on and off social media and soon gained national attention, and the
Madras High Court took up suo moto cognizance of the matter and directed the
Kovilpatti Judicial Magistrate to inquire into the matter.
On the basis of a
report of the local Magistrate investigating the deaths, the High Court stated
there was a prima facie case of murder against the main accused. The Court also
cited the serious injuries listed in the post-mortem report and testimony of the
eyewitness, a female constable at the police station. Hours later, the five
policemen were arrested.
According to the Magistrate, the CCTV footageof the assault had been erased, and
the officers had initially refused to submit the batons they had used to beat
the two men with. The officers who were accused in the deaths were initially
transferred, and, as demands for more severe action grew, they were suspended.
There are have been several instances where the police have severely manhandled
the citizens irrespective of whether they have been arrested or whether they are
innocent bystanders who approach the police to register a complaint. For
instance, in April 2020, Mohammed Rizwan was beaten with lathis and rifle butts
for venturing out of his home, attempting to buy biscuits. After such gruesome
treatment was meted out to him, he succumbed to injuries after two days. Legally
speaking, no police officer can physically beat any person to make an arrest or
compel their production in a police station.
Denial of basic rights to persons in custody constitutes an ascertained blow on
human dignity, having the effect of destroying an individual's personality. The
Courts in India have been vigilant against the infringement of the human rights
of those detained by giving a liberal and expansive interpretation of life and
personal liberty. Obtaining an effective remedy for complaint against the police
is integral so as to protect the rights of citizens. According to the National
Crime Bureau, there are about 54, 916 complaints were reported in 2015, out of
which only 16,308 complaints were inquired into, but only 1122 police officers
were actually prosecuted, and only 25 of them have been convicted. There seems
to be no logical explanation for such poor rates of conviction of police
- Police Complaint Authority
In the landmark judgement in Prakash Singh v. Union of India, the Supreme Court,
upon an extensive review of past authorities, cases alleging misuse of powers by
the police and reports of various Commissions set up to give recommendations for
greater accountability of police in India, directed inter alia, the
establishment of a Police Complaint Authority (PCA) in all states by the
enactment of appropriate legislation.
Consequently, in October 2006, the
Ministry of Home Affairs set up a committee known as the Soli Sorabjee Committee
for producing a draft Model Police Bill to be incorporated by all states in
preparing their respective legislations dealing with the police in the State and
replace the Police Act, 1861. The Model Bill lays down a detailed section
establishing and regulating authorities dealing with complaints against the
The Court had prescribed the minimum basic standards that the Bill must entail
for the oversight of police. The Bill creates a PCA comprising of a Chairperson
who shall be a retired Judge of a High Court and five other members at the state
level. A Commission is also established at the district level for better
administration and effective disposal of complaints against the police.
is authorised to investigate into complaints alleging any type of misconduct
against any police officer who is of or above the rank of Superintendent of
Police and into complaints against officers below the rank of Superintendent of
Police alleging death, grievous hurt, rape or attempt to rape against a woman in
police custody or extortion, take of land and/or house and incidents involving
severe abuse of authority or any other misconduct referred to it by the State
Police Chief or the District Authorities.
In respect of matters being inquired
into by the PCA, the Authority shall have the powers of a civil Court under the
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. The Commission can also take suo moto cognisance
of the alleged abuse.
- Liability under law
This liability finds its basis in the constitutional and administrative law
against the violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens. A police
officer abusing his authority to violate the right to life and liberty,
protection against discrimination, protection against arbitrary and illegal
detention, freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India etc. can be
held liable under the Constitutional law and can be directed to pay compensation
to the victim for the harm or injury caused by him.
In Sebastian Hongray v. Union of India (1984), the Apex Court granted
compensation to two ladies who were tortured, agonised and harassed when they
went to file a missing person report of their husbands. These women were taken
to an army camp in Manipur by army officials, and their missing husbands were
never produced. Similarly, in Saheli v. Commissioner of Police (1990),
compensation was granted for causing death by beating up a nine-year-old child
In Uttarakhand Sangharsh Samiti v. State of UP (1996), it was held that acts of
wrongful restraint and detention, the deliberate shooting of unarmed agitators,
planting of evidence to show false recoveries, committing rape, tampering with
evidence and harassing an individual cannot be said to be acts done or purported
to be done in the discharge of a police officer's official duties. Accordingly,
exemplary damages were awarded to the persons killed as well as women raped or
molested by the police.
- Action by the National Human Rights Commission
Under the Protection of Human RightsAct, 1993, the National and State Human
Rights Commissions are bestowed with the power to take cognisance either suo
moto or on a complaint made to it alleging violation of human rights by any
person. In pursuance of this power, the NHRC has the authority to intervene in
any proceedings against the police officer and make recommendations in this
regard. Acts of custodial violence and death, false encounters, atrocity by the
police officer, cases relating to women and children can be reported to the NHRC
The Commission has consistently pointed out that the hostile attitude of law
enforcement agencies, in turn, breeds lawlessness and contempt for the enforcing
authorities. One way of ensuring the reduction of such instances is to ensure
strict action, including prosecution, against the perpetrators of all forms of
custodial violence. The Commission has also recommended disciplinary action
against the deviant officials and granted monetary relief to the victims or
their next of kin.
With the steady increase in the number of cases of police brutality in India, it
has become an inordinate concern of human rights violation that requires
immediate action. It is highly inappropriate that the police take the law into
its own hands and abuses the process of law. The statistics show that the rate
of police accountability and conviction of such officers is considerably low.
Police being the primary law enforcement authority and an integral structure of
the State, abuse of legal processes and powers by it is highly dangerous to
democracy and can lead to a state of anarchy.
It is essential that legislative and executive actions are taken to ensure a
free and fair investigation or inquiry into the matters of police atrocities.
Many a times, the officials responsible for such gruesome acts go unpunished.
Senior police officers should not protect the persons responsible for custodial
crimes. An attitude of sensitivity towards human rights should be inculcated
through training and awareness programmes. Mechanisms should be developed to
properly investigate the matter by setting up a fair and impartial Committee to
look into the matter. It is required that prompt and effective action is taken
against the persons responsible for human rights violation, and mere suspension
must not be taken recourse to.
Although the Supreme Court directed the State legislatures to established a PCA
at the state and district levels, only 18 states have done so. Furthermore,
there is a severe lack of awareness of the existence of the PCA amongst the
general public. It is also highly recommended that the appointments to the
Authority are made by an independent, unbiased and impartial body. Another major
drawback of the PCA is that its recommendations are not binding and merely of a
directive nature. Nonetheless, the establishment of PCA is a step in the right
direction; effective implementation and awareness would protect and preserve the
rights of the public and the spirit of democracy.
Recently, to protect the interests of persons brought into the police station
for investigation, the Supreme Court in Paramvir Singh Saini v. Baljit Singh
directed the government to ensure the installation of CCTV cameras
and recording equipment in all interrogation rooms, lockups used by various
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Kishan Dutt Kalaskar
Authentication No: AP33724225349-19-0421