Scarcely a day goes by when we do not hear of some or the other alarming report of police high-handedness, and indeed, criminality. But perhaps the worst crime that our custodians of law are guilty of is to concoct false cases against people. Even worse is when many of these cases concern Muslims and the charges are related to terrorism. It does not take a genius to figure out that such actions, which are undoubtedly accompanied by torture at the hands of investigators, and harassment of the families of the people in question , are the worst possible advertisement for why the secular, democratic system is superior to whatever paradise that the terrorists have on offer. Without doubt they help to widen the pool of recruits for terrorism.
In February 2006, the
A confirmation of how this works is now available in the Delhi High Court’s acquittal of six people accused of being a part of the Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on the Red Fort in 2000. While the main accused has been sentenced to death, the High Court did not mince words in questioning the prosecution’s case, as well as the judgment of the lower court in finding them guilty.
According to the Indian Express the High Court Bench observed, “We became anxious to find out as to how these six accused were found guilty by the learned trial judge when despite our digging deep we could not find sufficient evidence against them.”
The pathology of the police’s attitude does not relate merely to terrorist cases, though they are the most serious. The manner in which the
Such serious, and perhaps routine, instances of police chicanery is the reason why
There are no easy answers to resolving the problem. But a beginning can be made by a government that understands that there is a problem in the first place. The problem of errant police or security personnel is not new. The Roman poet Juvenal, who lived 2,000 years ago, is said to have first asked Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards?) All countries have gone through the process of getting their law officers to remain on the straight and narrow path. At the end of the day, the police needs to police itself, and the system must ensure that there are laws and procedures in place to ensure that.While there are many suggestions in police commissions about arbitrary transfers and and promotion of police officials, we think they are missing the point. There is no doubt that the system must do what is required to insulate police personnel from the vagaries of politics and politicians. But that is only one part of the problem.
There is also, more importantly, a need to institute deterrent penalties on police personnel for not doing their duty. Once such a system is in place, the police-politician nexus will come apart on its own.
My view is that the only way to police the police is a “zero tolerance” approach. While I believe that "zero tolerance" is not always the best way to fighting crime in general, I think it is the only way to deal with criminal activities of those who are are custodians of the law.
So, first, there should be be no tolerance of any wrongdoing by the police (and no means zero). Second, all cases of police high-handedness must be tried by special fast-track courts and third, and this is important, any violation of the law by police personnel must merit double the quantum of punishment that is reserved for other law breakers.