The ideal purpose of the police can be best described in the following words which spell out the duties of Law Enforcement Officers as laid down in International Code of Enforcement Ethics: ‘As a Law Enforcement Officer my fundamental duty is to serve mankind, to safeguard lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against violence and disorder; and to respect constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.’
But paradoxical as it may sound, it is a universal phenomenon that the Police have been criticised and condemned for committing acts which are just contrary to the cherished ideal expressed in the above words.
Recently, millions of viewers watched in horror the live telecast of the inhuman brutalities of two police personnel – assistant sub inspector Lal Bhadur Singh and constable Ram Chandra Rai – perpetrating on a petty thief in Bhagalpur, Bihar. The incident wherein Mohammad Aurangzeb alias Salim caught in an act of stealing, was beaten with leather belts, iron rods and stones by a mob and was later tied to a policeman’s motor cycle and dragged for well over 100 metres, makes one wonder whether we are living in a civilized land. Undoubtedly, Salim was guilty and he deserves no sympathy for the punishment he should get for the crime committed. Though the police have the right to use force on people when the situation warrants, they cannot exercise it so casually. It is for the courts, not the police, to hand down punishment to criminals. The scene of a policeman dragging Salim’s half naked body is enough to bring the entire police force into disrepute.
This incident once again brings into focus the barbaric and ugly face of the police. It brings back memories of the 1989 riots when the bodies of the victims were buried in a field and cauliflowers grown over them. And the Bhagalpur blinding in which a policeman had poured acid in the eyes of 31 under trials in 1980.There is something common in torture inflicted on Salim, 1980 blinding case and 1989 riots. In all three incidents, the law enforcement officers acted just contrary to the cherished ideal expressed in the above lines, and law keepers behaved as law breakers.
This is not the first time that the police has been charged with committing excesses against people. This inhuman act is reflective of the manner in which the police, in general behave. Today the common man is afraid to lodge a complaint in the police station, fearing harassment, heckling and demand for hefty bribes. The police are widely perceived as inefficient, highhanded and corrupt, a mere tool in the hands of the powers that be. Time and again, it has been pointed out by committees, by experts and by policemen themselves that the police forces in almost all states have become politicised and corrupt. To a large extent, the police in our country tend to act unlawfully. They lack a sense of accountability towards society. Incidents of torture and barbarism that sometimes come to light is the result of the fact that these “criminals in uniform” wield absolute power, which corrupts them absolutely.
Police personnel acting with impunity know that they are likely to go unpunished. Because there is a strong nexus between criminals and politicians in recent times. On the other hand, the system has failed in punishing the personnel responsible for crime. So the police quite frequently act beyond the bounds of law. There should be check on the police so that despotic attitude of some policeman can be checked effectively. A thorough overhaul is needed if the police agency is to be transformed into a professionally competent body accountable to law. Law should not be made an instrument of tyranny. At the same time, liberty should not be interpreted as licence for people to do whatever they want.