Where are Police Complaint Authorities?
SC called for establishment of bodies to deal with misconduct by officers
Srinagar, Sep 23: Jammu and Kashmir Government is yet to comply with a Supreme Court directive on establishment of Police Complaint Authorities at different levels to probe the cases of misconduct by police officers.
Since 2006, when the apex court directive came in the Prakash Singh case of 2006 on police reforms, the J&K Government is evading the directive on “specific security situation” grounds—an argument which experts consider as invalid.
The Supreme Court directive said there shall be a Police Complaints Authority at the district level to look into complaints against police officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. Similarly, it said, there should be another Police Complaints Authority at the State level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above.
The court said the district level Authority may be headed by a retired District Judge while the State level Authority may be headed by a retired Judge of the High Court/Supreme Court. “The head of the State level Complaints Authority shall be chosen by the State Government out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice; the head of the district level Complaints Authority may also be chosen out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice or a Judge of the High Court nominated by him,” the court directive said.
These Authorities, the court said, may be assisted by three to five members depending upon the volume of complaints in different states/districts, and they shall be selected by the State Government from a panel prepared by the State Human Rights Commission/Lok Ayukta/State Public Service Commission. “The panel may include members from amongst retired civil servants, police officers or officers from any other department, or from the civil society. They would work whole time for the Authority and would have to be suitably remunerated for the services rendered by them,” it said.
The Authority may also need the services of regular staff to conduct field inquiries. For this purpose, the court said they may utilize the services of retired investigators from the CID, Intelligence, Vigilance or any other organization.
According to officials, the essence of the directive is that police must be accountable for all of their actions in the course of duty, from minor infractions to serious rights violations. “Unfortunately, at present, there is little demonstrable accountability for wrongdoing. Rather, there is a general perception that neither the internal disciplinary mechanisms, nor the existing external oversight agencies, nor the criminal justice system are able to properly and consistently address police misconduct. Far too many officers are getting away without having to fully account for wrongful acts of omission and commission,” says a former police officer. “Internal disciplinary mechanisms do not hold public trust and confidence for a variety of reasons. In addition to a lack of transparency, the camaraderie in the ranks makes it difficult to indict a fellow officer. Tolerance for routine bad behaviour is also high. In addition, the desire to protect the police image also allows strict accountability to slide.”
Many countries have sought to balance internal accountability mechanisms with some system of external, non-police (civilian) oversight. Some of the most successful police reform initiatives have created independent accountability mechanisms to address serious cases of police misconduct.
The state government once again asks to be exempted from implementing this directive based on the specific security situation in the State.
In its affidavit to the Supreme Court in 2007, the government asserts that creating Police Complaints Authorities (PCA) would give a forum for the insurgents to lodge false complaints against the police in order to demoralize them.
However, this argument, according to experts, is without merit. “The risk of false complaints is true in any state. Moreover, if the compliant has merit it does not matter whether it is coming from the public or from insurgent groups. The point is that police abuse should not and will not be acceptable. The PCA is also a safeguard for the police officers. If the accusation turns out to be false it must be a relief to know that the allegation has been thoroughly and independently investigated by a competent body which enjoys the trust of the public,” says Maja Daruwala, Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a New Delhi-based NGO working for police reforms.
The government further asserts that sufficient oversights mechanisms exist in the state (SHRC, Vigilance Commission and departmental superiors) and one more oversight body would be of no additional value.
“This argument is again without merit. Contrary to existing complaints mechanisms, the PCA is expected to be a specialised body dealing with only police misconduct while the other complaints mechanisms have a much wider mandate. Most importantly the PCA will have binding powers, whereas all other complaints bodies only have recommendatory powers,” Maja told Greater Kashmir.
According to experts, instances of custodial torture, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are rampant in the state. “There is growing public dissatisfaction with police functioning – not only in the routine malpractice, roughness, unwarranted violence and corruption but also based on its non-performance in ensuring the safety and security of residents in the ordinary course of every day policing. A police complaints authority appropriately set up and sufficiently empowered will go some way to repairing both this perception and practice,” argues Navaz Kotwal, a programme coordinator at the CHRI.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 23 Sep 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 23 Sep 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 24 Sep 2011 00:00:00 IST
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