POLICE BRUTALITY IN INDIA DURING COVID-19

Reading time : 12 minutes

INTRODUCTION

Police brutality

‘Includes various human rights violations by police such as physical assault, torture using 3rd degree methods, extracting extra judicial confession from the accused persons, custodial deaths and fake registration of cases for extortion,

The brutality also includes indiscriminate use of force by police against protestors. The specter of police brutality has haunted the world for centuries’[2]. Police brutality is not just what is mentioned above it is also the abuse of power by these authorities.

The main role of these authorities is to promote peace in the society & prevention of crime. But when these authorities start using their powers in a negative fashion it would set a wrong example among its people & for the society at large. By indulging in police brutality the policeman not only looses respect in the eyes of public which they have created over the time. But also puts fear in the minds of public at large. The public then sees them not as a problem solver but someone who creates the problem.

     The main question still remains why police officials indulge in brutality?

1) The use of force by them makes them believe that they are above the law.

Mainer times it is seen as Police officials using force to take control out of the situation. Mainer times Police officials engage in extra judicial murders in form of police encounters just to prove their metal & sending a strong message to the mass at large that no person can challenge their authority at large.

2) Police also indulge in doing brutality due to their own personal reasons such as  less wages  & almost 24*7 job work thus leading them to sleep disorders such as insomnia and thus making them frustrated and aggressive . This frustrations & aggression is shown to the public at large which are engaged in trifling acts.

3) In today’s time due to glorification of the Indian armed forces in film industry the respect has gone up but their remains a difference between real life cases & reel life scenarios. In 21st century nobody treats police with respect due to them indulging in corruption. Thus they have not gain the respect of public and thus the public doesn’t look them with respect and thus every time a police official stops them many of a person avoids them or treats them badly thus making them much more aggressive and then showing them in bad light by  recording their videos on their mobile phone.

4) Due to a lot of judicial activism observed in most parts of the country. The freedom of speech is used widely by the masses sometimes this freedom of speech becomes in form of hate speech. Thus taking in form of riots & affray. To curb these kinds of situations so that there remains no actual loss to public and its properties, the police might take necessary steps in form of Lathi charge or use of water cannons. Thus it becomes police brutality for public at large.

5) Custodial violence to extract confessions in prisons is not a new thing in 21st century. Even the honorable apex court has set up guidelines in this regard. As per Section 24-29 of the Indian evidence Act no police confessions will be valid in the court of law.

6) Also to curb brutality there is no such strict laws or governing body which acts as an ombudsman. Thus police officials indulge in police brutality, without knowing that they are promoting this evil culture in the modern time.

7) To make sure that there is no crime & there remains maintenance of peace in this society, the police officials get a lot of work related pressure from the media, citizens and the legislators of the area. In order to maintain peace the police officials tend to take a stronger and less appreciated measure such a police brutality. So, that their remains fear in the eyes of public at large & they do not indulge in criminal activities.

In India we can begin recalling the occurrence of police brutality from: 

1919: Jallianwala bagh

On 13th April, 1919 on the auspicious festival of Baishakhi,

Brigadier General Dyer ordered his troops to march it in the grounds of Jallianwala bagh. As the poor protestors were observing a peaceful and non violent protest regarding the British India Government, General Dyer ordered his troops of British Indian Army to fire from their rifles to these unarmed men, woman & children according to the official reports a total of 400 Indians were killed and 1500 were injured. But some believed that more than 1000 of men, women and children were killed.

General Dyer was not prosecuted for this heinous crime instead the British government terminated him from his services. Making him ineligible to claim for promotions in the British Government, The British government never formally apologized for it. It was later in 2019 that they said that the event was tragic.

1980:  Bhagalpur district where police was accused of blinding 31 prisoners by pouring Acid in their eyes. Since during the late 1970’s to 1980’s Bihar was labeled as the crime capital of India. These prisoners were not only cold blooded rapist, murderers and extortionist they were also having a lot of criminal records. To take charge at this situation the police officials of Bhagalpur district not only blinded these 31 under trial prisoners but also poured Acid in their eyes. That resulted in complete blindness of them. This form of police brutality created fear in the minds of these criminals and heinous criminal activities remained at halt for quite a few time.

Surprisingly, the brutality done by the police gained a lot of support from the general public. As the rightly said that justice has been done to them by pouring acids to these culprits.  Whereas the Human Rights organizations condemned & criticized these events and said that they were tragic. They also stated that this act is not only against the law but also it is against the humanity. The honorable apex court ordered for compensation for violation of basic human rights to the victims & no penal liability was imposed on the police officials who were held in charge. In popular culture a 2003 blockbuster movie named Gangajal staring Ajay Devgan was based on this incident.

2019: Delhi Police & Advocates fight in Tis Hazari Complex.

Over a minute issue over parking area. Two Delhi cops assaulted two young advocates inside the Tis Hazari Prison cell. They also burned their respective car which was earlier parked. The police not only violated basic human rights of these practicing advocates also tortured them inside the police cell. In those twenty four hours they were treated with a lot of disrespect. Later on the Honorable Delhi High Court not only granted bail to them but also held the police officials responsible for indulging in police brutality.

This was all possible due to the support by the members of the legal fraternity which stormed inside the police station in Tis Hazari area but also protested for the same.

[i]

 COVID 19 AND POLICE BRUTALITY

The sudden nationwide announcement of lockdown following the Covid-19 in March, 2020

Unleashed the wave of *police brutality* across the country , beating, assaulting and killing innocent people on the pretext of violating lockdown norms such a violating social distancing and not wearing face masks these men were thrashed by police officials for these miniscule violations of norms . 

A large number of photos and videos have surfaced in newspapers and on the internet and television news channel portraying the terror, violence by the police officials. In one such news report, police did not even spare a CRPF’s cobra commando. On April 23rd, Constable Sachin Sunil Savant of examba village was assaulted, handcuffed and arrested by Karnataka police for not wearing mask while cleaning his bike in front of his residence. Another case came up in Uttar Pradesh police came to light on May 11, when a 53 year old school teacher Deepti Srivastava, in Agra tweeted for urgent help after some policemen hurled abuses at her & her doctor husband currently posted at a Covid hospital at Aligarh. In a most indecent &  incident on June 10th , 2020, in Uttar Pradesh’s  Balrampur district one sub-inspector and two constables had been caught on camera along with four municipal workers, removing the dead body of a man in a garbage collection van. Another important case of police brutality was witnessed which shocked this whole country.

It was on June 20th, 2020, a Sathankulam police station in Tamil Nadu’s thoothukudi district, police tortured the father-son duo P Jayaraj, 59 and his son J. Bennicks were beaten black & blue for seven hours between 20.00 hours till 3.00 Am, stripping them naked, beating them until blood oozed on to the floor, and then forced them to clean the spill. The charge sheet is against nine police personnel on charges of criminal conspiracy, murder, wrongful confinement and other sections of the Indian Penal Code in this matter. Jeyaraj & his son died of grievous injury on June 23rd & June 22nd, 2020 respectively, spotlighting the horrors of custodial violence and police excesses during the Covid-19 lockdown.

On June 19th, evening, a friend of J. Bennicks informed him that his father P. Jayaraj has been picked up by the police for keeping their mobile headset shop open during curfew. However, the CBI probe later on revealed that there was no such violation as according to the district magistrate’s order, shops were allowed to be open till 20.00 Hours at that time. Bennicks went to the police station & saw his father beaten up inside the police station & an altercation ensued between him & sub inspector Balakrishnan , said the charge sheet. After this police decided to teach him a lesson on how to behave, it added. Bennicks too, was taken into custody & beaten up ‘more severely’ according to the charge sheet. Whenever there used to be a lull, accused Inspector S. Sridhar used to prod the staff by asking about reasons for silence and thereby instigating them further to start a fresh round of beating. Not only this, their (the father and son’s) clothes were removed to add to the brutality of the torture. Both Jeyaraj & Bennicks, turn by turn, were made bow down on a wooden table in underwear only, their hands and legs were caught hold by accused police officials, so that they were not able to defend themselves , The CBI charge sheet said. They were hit in the back & other parts of the body using lathis, the charge sheet added. Jayaraj pleaded with the police officials to stop, saying he was diabetic and had high blood pressure, but police tortured him for 19.45 hours till 3.00 AM on June 20th, 2020, said CBI’s Charge sheet. The CBI investigation revealed that so much blood was oozing from the wounds of Jeyaraj and Bennicks that officials involved in the torture changed their clothes twice, before taking them to the hospital and then to court, thee clothes were thrown to dustbin of a government hospital. The charge sheet added that when the police realized witnesses in the police station noticed the assault, they filed a fake case against the duo over violation of lockdown rules. The state government on the directions of Madras High Court had entrusted the case to CBI in July, 2020, in the result, all nine accused police personnel are in jail. 

No country is free from police brutality

The term ‘police brutality’ was first used in the American press in 1872, when the Chicago Tribune reported the beating of a civilian under arrest at the Harrison street police station. Early records suggests that labour strikes were the first large-scale incidents of police brutality in the United States, including events like the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 , The Pullman strike of 1894, The Lawrence textile strike of 1912, the Ludlow massacre of 1914 , the great steel strike of 1919 & the Hanapepe massacre of 1924.

Many cities in USA have been rocked by the protests against police brutality following May 25th, 2020 killing of a Black man George Floyd by a White policeman. 

Videos of Policeman killing Floyd by suffocating him went viral. Further, proliferating videos of police arresting or tear gassing seemingly peaceful protestors raised the issues of human rights violation. However, researchers and activists say that solutions are no mystery: evidence based changes to policy around policing can reduce deaths at the hands of police. The scientific procedures are available to combat police bias and killings. In the United States, it is common for marginalized groups to perceive the police as oppressors, rather than protectors or enforcers of the law, due to statistically disproportionate number of minority incarcerations.

Penal liability for doing Police brutality in India

If a policeman is found imitating police brutality he will be violating certain provisions of criminal law in India these are as follows: 

1) Section 166 of IPC, 1860

Public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person,

Punishment may extend upto one year with fine.

2) Section 166A of IPC, 1860

Public servant disobeying direction under law,

Punishment may extend upto six months.

3) Section 167 of IPC, 1860

Public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury,

Punishment may extend upto three years.

4) Section 197 of CrPC, 1973

States about Prosecution of judges and public servants, according to this provision no public servant is immune from the criminal proceedings.

Constitutional Status of Police brutality 

Article 20 of Constitution

Protection in respect of conviction for offences

Article 21 of Constitution

Right to life and personal liberty

Article 22 of Constitution

Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases

 Human Rights Violation of victims

Article 5 of UDHR

Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us. 

Article 9 of UDHR

Nobody has any right to put us in the prison without any good reason. 

Landmark cases 

1) DK Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) 

– Custodial death was recognized by the Supreme Court.

2) Nilabati Behra v. State of Orissa, 1960 

– Compensation for custodial death was awarded by the Supreme Court.

SURVEY AND CONCLUSION

‘According  to National Crime bureau, during the year 2017, there have been more than 100 custodial deaths, with very few convictions. In all, 427 persons died in police custody in India between 2016-2019’ 

According to this Latin Legal maxim Ubi jus ibe reme

Where there is a right there is a remedy.

In my opinion!  As observed earlier that there are no such solid legal statues that would punish these guilty police officials moreover maximum what law permits is to punish them by way of termination from their services & providing compensation to the victims of police brutality. The only remedy is to make another law called the 

“PREVENTION OF POLICE BRUTALITY INDISCIPLINE & CORRUPTION ACT.” 

The act must aim to impose:

1)  Strict punishment to police personals who are indulging in police brutality.

2) Death penalty must be imposed on police officials who are found to be guilty of custodial deaths.

3) Provisions for compensation and relief to the family of the victims of police brutality.

4) Appointment of an independent ombudsman that would be reported and further look it into the matters concerning police brutality.

5) Establishment of special fastrack courts that would look up into the matter of police brutality and further would perform effective delivery system of speedy justice to the victims of brutality.

In the end I would like to conclude it by saying the lockdown and the entire pandemic period has been witnessing countless cases of police brutality, in many cases leading to custodial deaths.


[1] Police brutality definition


[i]  National Crime Bureau , 2017

Author: AGRIM SHARMA

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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