Correcting The Colonial Legacy
A couple of years ago, the Supreme Court (SC) had directed the Government of India to install CCTV cameras at all police stations across the country; and now, the Apex Court has expanded the guideline! The Judiciary recently asked the Government to install CCTV cameras not only at Police Stations, but also at offices of investigating agencies, like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and National Investigation Agency (NIA), within a stipulated time frame!
The SC has further specified the places where those cameras should be installed. In its Directive, the court has clearly mentioned that the concerned authorities should install cameras at the entrance and exit of each Police Station, at the main entrance of the station, in the reception room, in the hall-lobby-corridor, inside and outside the lock-ups, in the balcony, outside the toilet, inside the room of the Inspector or Officer in Charge, inside the room of Sub-inspectors and Police Officers, inside the room of Duty Officers, and even at the rear sides of Police Stations! As per the order, cameras – which are to be installed there – should have night vision technology and audio recording facility. Most importantly, arrangement should be made in such a manner that recordings could be stored for at least 18 months.
The SC has made it clear that it wants to put a stop to tortures in Police custody. It has expressed serious concern over the increasing number of incidents related to torture and ill-treatment of suspects, accused or potential criminals by the officers at Police Stations before and after the arrests of those who were suspected of committing those offences. A Human Rights Report recently claimed that 1,731 Indians died in judicial custody in 2019. A prisoner in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail told the media that a Police Officer burned the skin on his back and branded him with ‘Aum‘ (a Hindu religious sign)! A pregnant lady, arrested for her alleged involvement in a kidnapping case in north-eastern Indian Province of Assam, had to undergo an abortion after being kicked in the abdomen by a Policeman. Her baby could not survive. These form a part of the atrocities as to what transpires inside the Police Stations. The SC has directed the use of CCTV cameras, as well as the preservation of video and audio clips in order to make this process transparent, stating that the Police have the Power, but do not have the Right to Abuse Power. Hence, the assistance of technology is required to stop acts of Violence inside the Police Stations.
Torture or harassment by the Police happens in Developed Nations, too. However, the basic (Human) Rights of the accused or the offender are largely protected there! At least, the entire process is largely transparent. The Police have to record all the information and to keep the details of interrogation, investigation and evidences against the criminals. Even after that, the death of George Floyd helps one realise that openly or secretly, there is a specific grammar in case of Police Brutality, but no geography!
The Indian Apex Court has also directed the formation of Independent Committees at all the Provinces and District Levels for publishing reports after watching the CCTV footages of the Police Stations from time to time. Surveillance of the protectors is not a good move. However, the SC has no other option, as India is still following the Administrative System that was established by its Colonial Master, Britain… In Britain and other Western countries, the main duty of the Police is to maintain the Law and Order situation. Unfortunately, the Police Force is still used as an interface between the Government and the People in India and other South Asian countries. It is, now, up to the Judiciary to change the Colonial Mentality of the Indian Political Society.
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