Unwarranted political control in the affairs of the police, hindering the day-to-day functioning of the police by the politicians and the self-submission of the police to their political masters, thereby subjugating a state institution to the changing whims of political parties have caused serious dents to the state of the rule of law in the country says a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, adding that even the national media have been silent in this aspect and have demonstrated their neglect, in addressing an issue, fundamental to democracy and democratic governance.
The full text of the statement follows.
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
The concern expressed by the Kerala State Police Officers’ Association regarding the safety of police officers in the backdrop of the recurring incidents of assaults upon police officers in the state is an issue of high concern. In a resolution drafted by the officers after holding a meeting yesterday at Thiruvanandapuram in Kerala state, the Association expressed anguish about the deteriorating state of the rule of law in the state. The resolution said that the attack on police officers is not only an assault on the rule of law, but is also a hindrance to maintaining law and order in the state. In a pleading note, the Association ‘requested the concerned authorities’ that they must ensure that incidents of attack upon police officers will not be repeated in the state.
The anguish expressed by the Police Officers’ Association is not out of place. In the past four years, 1294 cases were reported from Kerala state in which police stations were attacked and officers assaulted by the civilians. In most of these cases, the persons who instigated and participated in the attacks are the cadres belonging to the CPI (M), the party in power in the state.
Destruction of public property and assaulting government servants is a crime in the country. Yet, most persons involved in the police station attacks are not arrested or the cases investigated. The reluctance of the police to register cases and conduct proper investigations suggest that the police is aware that by doing so the officers will bring upon them further difficulties. How could the police who cannot ensure their own safety be trusted with a job to protect the public? If the police cannot investigate crimes committed against them, how could they do their job in a crime committed against an ordinary citizen? These are fundamental questions concerning the rule of law in the state as well as in the country.
It is common knowledge, that in India, the police are under the unwarranted control of the political parties. Sixty-two years of this unwarranted control is not only the most important reason for the deterioration of the state of policing in the country, but also is the primary cause for the demoralisation of the police, a state institution essential to protect, promote and fulfil human rights and fundamental guarantees of every Indian.
Other than for a recent attempt by the Supreme Court of India while deciding the Praksah Singh case, there is not yet any serious effort in the country to see through the problems in policing and law enforcement and to provide remedies. The Supreme Court’s directives in the Prakash Singh case are ignored by the state as well as the central government. The judgment was delivered in 2006.
Even the national media have been silent in this aspect and have demonstrated their neglect, in addressing an issue, fundamental to democracy and democratic governance. June 26, the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, was ignored by the media. There was hardly any space made available in the print and electronic media to discuss the issue of custodial torture, a crime against humanity, but a practice that is endemic in the country.
Unwarranted political control in the affairs of the police, hindering the day-to-day functioning of the police by the politicians and the self-submission of the police to their political masters, thereby subjugating a state institution to the changing whims of political parties have caused serious dents to the state of the rule of law in the country. It is natural that the police officers spoke out when they were literally hurt.
The concern expressed by the Kerala State Police Officers’ Association is an issue that must be of utmost importance for all those who believe in democracy and the rule of law in India. Civil society organisations, including the media, must encourage and provide space for debates upon the concerns expressed by the Association. The continuing subjugation of the police by the political parties and the state governments under their control, is a direct negation of the Supreme Court’s mandate in the constitutional framework.
At the least, the Kerala State Police must have the courage to investigate the crimes committed against the officers on duty and arrest persons responsible for the destruction of public property. Failing to do this and each day’s delay in responding to the crisis is not a mere shame upon the police and illuminates their servitude to the politicians. It challenges their right to wear a uniform.
July 10, 2009