Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why bother with Complaints.

All police forces publish annual reports showing how many complaints were received and how they were disposed off and, although they don't exactly say so, they do convey the sense that all is well. The public perception is, however, quite the contrary and, more and more frequently, people are resorting to agitations in public places rather than petitions to senior police officers to register their protest against police actions (or lack of it). But is it reason enough for over-worked police officers to invest more time and resources in public complaints?

To find an answer, it would be useful to consider what happens when a true complaint of torture in custody is made, an officer inquires and finds it 'not proved'( not necessarily because he wants to shield the guilty, but because proof is really not forthcoming). The first thing that happens  is that the complainant, his family and friends are convinced that the senior officers were complicit in the torture and the public perception that it is futile to take complaints to senior officers gets more firmly entrenched. Secondly, the wrong-doer is emboldened and if he has succeeded in working out some crime by using third-degree and gets rewarded for it, use of torture as a tool of investigation gets validated (Justice MG Chitkara has written in his book that an incumbent Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission advised an assembly of judicial officers that  use of third-degree is to some extent a part of the investigative process) and the right-doers get demoralised. Thirdly, the other subordinates, who know what all has happened, lose faith in the officer's competence and lose respect for him, attenuating his moral authority over the subordinates. Fourthly, corruption gets entrenched: we must remember that third-degree is indispensable for extorting bribes and  if people do not fear torture at the hands of the police, the police can't make money. Fifthly and most importantly, when new recruits join the police, they find that they have two sets of role-models to choose from. One comprising third-degree specialists, seen as intrepid (willing to dare the law and their own officers to catch them out), public-spirited (as they claim that they torture suspects only to help the victims of crime), relatively professionally successful and highly spoken of in the public, and well-off (on bribes). The other set, comprised of right-doers, is seen as plodders, not very successful professionally , well spoken of in public but considered fit to be put in temples rather than in field , and not so well off (living on their salaries alone). There can be no doubt which set wins the vote of the young minds and thus, it affects the character of the whole force in the long run.

The answer to the question posed must, therefore, be an emphatic yes. For organisational health, it is imperative that supervisory officers inquire into complaints against their subordinates, as many as they can handle, and bare the truth, no matter what it takes in terms of their time and energy. However, there is another factor to be taken into account: nowadays, the mood of the people is such that  even the most diligent inquiry may not be accepted by the people if it ultimately exonerates the accused police officer. Therefore, senior police officers would be well advised to associate a person of repute with their inquiries. If the State Human Rights Commission, the State Women's  Commission and the State SC/ST Commission are agreeable, their nominees should be invited to co-chair any inquiry.

Before closing, I would mention an incident which shows how strongly third-degree methods affect the people. There was a murder and as SP I went to supervise the investigation. On arrival in the village I was met by the Station  Officer and the Circle Inspector who told me that a person who had been sleeping near the deceased had confessed to the crime and been taken into custody. So, after spot-inspection, I spoke to the person and he readily confessed to the crime and gave fairly detailed account of it. However, he did not seem to have a motive and his body language made me suspect that he was lying and I began to question him. Finally after about two hours, I was able to persuade him to confess that his original confession was false, that he had nothing to do with the crime and that he had confessed to the crime only to escape third-degree at the hands of the police (although he was adamant till the end that no policeman had suggested it to him). Luckily, we caught the real culprit soon after and secured a conviction from the court .

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On 14th October, all TV channels showed the PM showering fulsome praise on the military personnel
and in the same moment they prominently showed the mother of a martyr complaining that police had demanded a bribe to find her son's medal which had been stolen. The next day, papers also said that CM had asked policemen to be paraded so that the culprit could be identified. Watching/reading the news was a painful experience.

 How one wished that senior police officers handled complaints differently!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Crime Law and Police - revised edition

I have withdrawn the earlier edition of my book and posted a revised edition which may be seen at http://collegewale/EBOOK/

Critical comments can be posted directly on this site.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Using local herbs as insecticides

I am staying on a 1-acre farm and growing fruits, flowers, vegetables and spices for my own use. When I started, I had to use very large quantities of insecticides. However, I soon noticed that insects don't attack some plants, such as neem, gajar ghas, ipomoea, custard apple etc. So, I decided to take leaves of all such plants, crush them, soak them in water for some time and use the filtered extract as spray on my plants. I soon discovered that this was very effective way of controlling insects, so much so that I no longer keep any insecticide with me and only very occasionally buy the minimum quantity of an insecticide for use against insects that don't yield to my mixture. This not only saves me money  but also guards against ingestion of harmful insecticidal residues.

I wish the Agricultural Colleges would take up research on the insecticidal properties of  these plants which grow as weeds in most fields and inform the farmers how to make use of them  and thereby save a lot of money for the farmers and save the general public from harmful effects of residual

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crime Law and Police

My book may be viewed at Law and Police.pdf.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Citizen's Monitoring of the Police

Kejriwal has claimed that because he has set up a help-line for citizens to register their complaints and to learn how to 'sting' public servants, corruption in Delhi has come down to negligible limits. To the extent that there is substance in this claim, it shows that fear of exposure and subsequent action can deter the corrupt to some extent.

In this context my suggestion for citizen's monitoring committees at the PSs needs to be re-looked.

I have suggested that there should be a citizens committee at each Police-Station which can entertain complaints from the people and ask questions of the PS and put the whole matter before senior officers, the govt and the media, if it is not satisfied with the response of the PS. The committee could have, say, seven members, which is a manageable number and which is not likely to be dominated by one party.I have suggested that all elected representatives living in the area should elect the members by a secret ballot so that the  committees enjoy the confidence of all elected representatives but need not share their compulsions; that only residents of the area, who are easily accessible to all, should be eligible, so that nobody has difficulty in getting heard; and that all those whom the SC has held ineligible for elections should be ineligible for membership of these committees. I have suggested that the Committees should be statutory, so that police may not take them lightly;that the law itself should make it clear that a committee can ask questions only as a committee and that individual members may not approach the police on their own ( so that there is no possibility of an under-hand deal between a member and the police in any matter), and that it should be absolutely clear that a committee can only ask questions of the PS and convey public concerns to them, but cannot interfere with police work in any way. I have further suggested that superior police officers should be obliged to inquire when the committee so recommends so that their impact is felt, that the inquiring officer should co-opt a nominee of the State Human Rights Commission and/or a nominee of the Women's Commission if a woman is alleged to have been harassed by the police and/or a nominee of the SC&ST Commission if the complainant belongs to SC or ST; and that a SDOP-level officer should be put in charge of each PS so that complaints referred by the committees can be quickly inquired  and better leadership and guidance is provided to the PS staff and bad behaviour is nipped in the bud. I have commended the suggestion that PSs should have CCTV cameras so that there is a record of how the PS staff have behaved with complainants, witnesses and suspects and suggested that there should be e-registration of FIR and that the district control room should react immediately to a report of an incident and hand over the case to PS concerned in due course.I have further suggested that govts must simultaneously sanction welfare schemes for the police, which would compensate them for the hazards of service, including inability to devote time to children.

I don't think any party will oppose legislation to set up citizens' committees; all other suggestions can be put into effect through executive orders, without delay and without much financial outlay.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

AAP's Defence of its Law Minister

It is entirely possible that a sex and drugs racket was going on in the Khirkiyan locality, that the police had not done anything to stop it despite representations from the residents, that the Law Minister responded to the appeal of his constituents, and that he went to the place at night to satisfy himself that the complaint was right, before taking action. The moot question is, however, whether his actions after he reached the place were justified.

Since the Law Minister could not have seen what was going on in the houses from the roadside, it seems reasonable to ask how the Minister satisfied himself, and  how Yogendra Yadav, Kejriwal and all other AAP leaders are so sure, that a sex and drugs racket was going on in the particular house which the Minister wanted raided: does the sight of condom etc in a car prove  that prostitution was going on in that house? Also, since AAP leaders like Yogendra Yadav and Ashutosh  have been laying so much stress on what they have and what they have not seen in TV footage, and since it is known that TV crews were invited there by the Minister,I think AAP can reasonably be asked to produce the footage showing the activities of the Minster after his arrival on the spot. That should settle the questions whether he and his men man-handled the Ugandan women or not and whether they forced police to take urine samples by the road-side or not. If AAP does not produce the footage, then the matter rests on what witnesses have to say  In that case, why should the statements of the Ugandan women be discounted? Because they are blacks?

There is also the issue of the Law Minister pressing the police to raid a house even after the police officer had told him that it was not legally permissible. Surely, if the police officer was wrong in saying this, he could have been suspended the next morning and prosecuted for dereliction of duty.That would have taught the police a proper lesson. Instead of that he chose to berate the officer in public. Can it be accepted as responsible conduct?

 The concerted efforts of AAP leaders like Kejriwal  to overawe the police (hum unko theek kar denge), instead of pressing for police reforms, also raises questions. There is certainly big money in sex and drug rackets.The AAP leaders have alleged  that Delhi police collects money from everyone and passes it up; do they not want to stop it but only want a change in the direction of this flow? If they want to stop it, then why is it that they have not raised their voice for police reforms which the Supreme Court has mandated?

Since the AAP people are experts in 'sting' operations, it would be much better if instead of making a general  allegation, they would carry out a 'sting' to show which girl is taking money from boys, and inviting him to which house. It would also better serve public purpose if they were to 'sting' some corrupt police officers (which should not be too difficult considering that, according to Kejriwal, 90 percent of Delhi police is corrupt) instead of starting a war against the Delhi police.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

If I were the Home Minister - (concl.)

I have now been in the job for some time and I have visited police-stations, police-lines, control-rooms, and police training institutions . I have talked to many persons including trial-judges, lawyers, police officers of all ranks, social workers and some persons who have been cited as prosecution witnesses but have yet to testify as also a few who admit to having resiled from the statement made to the police, while testifying in the court.

I now understand that the police cannot offer the kind of protection which the people want unless the Criminal Justice System is reformed as a whole. However, I don't say anything  in the public because. at present, it will only be dismissed as an apology for the police. I am also convinced that there is an urgent need for a large increase in police strength but I am loth to sanction it until police show some signs of change and until I am satisfied that an increase in police strength will actually benefit the people and will be appreciated by them. However, being a politician, I am also very keen to do somethings that will show the people that I am on the ball.

I have noticed that every time the police are seen behaving in an inappropriate manner, a cry goes up to improve their training. So, I tell the DGP to go for a complete overhaul of the police training institutions (including staff) so that police training in the State comes on par with the best in the country. 

I know that despite their antipathy, the people do want  larger police presence in their areas and quicker police response to incidents. So, I ask the DGP to prepare for it and the next time there is an incident which attracts large public attention, I announce a substantial increase in the number of two-wheeler and four-wheeler patrols. 

Since registration of FIRs is another hot public issue, I decide that a law officer would be posted in each district to advise SP on legal matters and, particularly, to assist in e-registraton of FIRs ( refer to my blog of 20th Feb '13). 

I persuade the government to strengthen the forensic science laboratories so that investigations are not held up on that account. I also persuade the government to set up a group of experts to examine the feasibility of character-assessment so that unsuitable persons could be screened out from police and other public services at the recruitment stage or during initial training.

As already mentioned, I think that the CJS needs to be holistically reformed and that is possible only if all the stake-holders come on one platform and discuss the issues. So, I organise frequent seminars to facilitate such discussions and I make sure that members of the monitoring committees get a prominent part in them. On my part, I not only point to the delays in trials which amount to denial of justice, but also emphasise that the System must be made witness-centric so that people willingly come forward as witnesses. I forcefully point out that if a witness is intimidated or otherwise induced not to speak the truth at the trial, it leads to perversion of justice and therefore, the persons involved, as also a witness who wilfully perjures himself, must be visited with swift and condign punishment.

I now wait for the results (and the next elections).

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