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Human Rights And Police


Human Rights are something we cannot live without. Only by the virtue of being human,  we all are equal  in dignity and rights, each of us is  worth of being honored and  living with full enjoyment of life, liberty, equality and dignity no matter how one’s race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status are distinct.

These rights are build based on first – Universality which says we all are equal in dignity and rights irrespective of race, religion, creed, language, geographical condition etc.; second – Democracy that implies human rights and related legal instruments should be of the consent and the mandate of the people; and third Guaranty that fixes the obligation that human rights are given by the State or Government and so is the main responsibility of the protection is should be of the government. Human rights involve a notion of a contract between the State and its Citizens that encoded in its constitution and other legal instruments for protection and deliverance.

These two key points, Guaranty and Contract are the enormous binding forces in the policing domain. It is our common understanding that principal objective of having the system called police is to ensure all the members of our society safety with a sense of environment of secure.

Police are here to protect our lives and property. For this reason to enable them to carry out their duty effectively they have been given some responsibility and some powers. But that does not mean that the police are above the law. They are in fact bound by the law and have to act in accordance with the law. However in order to ensure that police do not abuse the powers given to them it is necessary and rather important for us to know our rights vis-à-vis the police.

Police are important building block of the criminal justice system that supposed to be worked in accordance with the rule of law. The credibility of the criminal justice system depends on the relative strength or weakness of the laws and procedures established for the police, the prosecution and the court system. The police are an arm of the State vested with the primary responsibilities of law enforcement and prevention of crimes against the State and private citizens.

Enforcement entails taking notice of criminal infractions of the law as soon as they occur, ascertaining the facts of the case, apprehending the culprit who is subsequently presented by the prosecuting  agency of the court, where the judge, considers the evidence brought before him during trial and decides whether the person so charged, is guilty or not. If found guilty the culprit is awarded punishment as laid down in law with adequate opportunities provided for appeal against the decision at a higher court.

International Human Rights Principle and Police

The new concept for human rights that largely related to the police function as controlling iron bar is of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789; the following some basic points are ascribed to the declaration as the original philosophy of present  human rights.

* All men are born and remain free and equal in their rights.

* All men are equal before the law.

* All men should have the freedom from arrest.

* All men are innocent until they are proved guilty, etc.

In addition to this, the following Amnesty International’s 10 point program specifically for the India to combat torture by police and security forces.

1. Adopt an official policy to protect human rights.

2. Investigate impartially all allegations of torture.

3. Bring perpetrators to justice.

4. Strengthen safeguards against torture.

5. Inform detainees of their rights.

6. Train the police and security forces.

7. Compensate the victims.

8. Provide torture victims with medical treatment and rehabilitation.

9. Investigate the causes and patterns of torture.

10. Strengthen India’s International human rights commitment.

In the discussion the following articles of the International Standard and Legal Instruments of the United Nations and Indian Constitution is one important piece of useful information for a good policing aspiration.

System and Social Influence

The concept of Human Rights, though the British claim that they knew from the time of their Magna Carta (1215), were to incorporated in the Indian Police Act, 1861 and as such the accountability of the police for human rights violations was not at all a concern for the English at the time when they drafted the Indian Police Act in 1861. When India became independent, Most of the Indian States drafted their State Police Acts and even there, the experts who drafted the Acts was more concerned with the drafting of the Acts in tune with the colonial Indian police Act rather than doing the same keeping in mind the principles of the human rights as guaranteed by Indian Constitution and police accountability.

After India embarrassed democracy, the politicians started misusing the police, they have seen enough how the British misused the Indian police for  their advantage for narrow party or personal benefit which in due  course is said to have demoralized the police service causing serious distortions in their professional efficiency.

The human rights unfriendly behavior of the policemen most of the time, caused by the intrinsic character of the individuals like the aggressive and arrogant nature. Sometimes it is considered that due to such personal interest the individuals choose this profession. However one broad social factor to be talked about is that the policemen are also the son of the soil, the breed of our corrupt society and a part of failed system; their negative action and nature are derived from the society itself.

Sometimes in order to avoid the victimization from the powerful politicians, senior officers and their families and friends, the policemen prefer to breach the law and turn on bribery and favoritism. Policemen are dissatisfied on many counts. They work in conditions which abhor to many. The promotion prospects of middle and lower levels of policemen are far from being satisfied, they are statutorily required to work for twenty-four hours.

Police Behavior

Status threatening: Many police officers of the General Executive Branch of the police service want to be in the field enjoying territorial jurisdiction, In other words, they want to be the DGP of the State, IG of the zone, DIG of the range, SP of the district, Dy SP (DIG) of the sub-division, Inspector of a circle and sub inspector of a police station. Such postings give them status, position and money. Usually, it is these officers/men who are in Police or above in territorial jurisdiction are accused of   human rights violations. One important reason is that have more contact with the people outside.

Why do the officers/men in the operational field of police administration struggle so carelessly and sometimes so senselessly to accomplish more and more things within no time or involve themselves in more and more human rights violations? Why do they keep a detinue in half or full nakedness in their custodial facility? Why do they resort informal arrests of people involved in crimes?—or arrest innocent people? Why do they threaten suspects with epithets and by showing that torture will be used against them.

Sometimes, it is because their position really demands superhuman achievement for them to remain in that post, for that, scientific methods of crime and prolonged investigation may not be of any help. Sometimes, it is because they are pressured by several forces which are within or outside the Department. Politicians may intervene in the matter. Sometimes, it is because the field level officers have little or no scientific information. In ignorance, they may resort to human rights unfriendly approaches. There may be many other reasons for the police officers/men to be human rights unfriendly in their approaches. A particular field-level posting brings fame, name and fortune for many in police department and they do not want to lose their position and status by remaining always human rights friendly in their work and functioning.

Researchers have proved that in many police officers/men who are human rights unfriendly suffer from a hidden lack of self-esteem. They know they are less esteemed in public. People talk many things about all police officers in the jurisdiction. For example, if a police officer engages in torturing suspect, people talk about it. If a police officer is corrupt, then the common man talks about it in tea shops, parks and even it their dinner at home, if a police officer is indecent to woman, the womenfolk discuss it among themselves. This is to say that many police officers who walk “high” amidst people in their jurisdiction have uneasiness in their human conscience. They know what they do not retain their status and position in their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This is to say that they suffer from low self-esteem. They behave in a human rights unfriendly way just because they want to please people who retain them in the post. The people who retain police officers, at present, in their posts may be politicians who again suffer from lack of self-esteem and deterioration of value conscience. These police officers who are politician-friendly or servile make all attempts to please them and in so doing they violate human right. The studies show that so long as police officers cling to politician, to the affluent, to the influential in society, it is just not possible to have human rights friendly police service. Human rights friendly police may be a myth. Besetting by Insecurities: How many police officers who employ third degree methods during interrogation do so just to administer justice to the criminal? As International Legal Instruments advocate and India is endeavoring for a justice system and in such a system, there is no scope for the use of torture during interrogation. If torture is employed, it indicates that the system is not promoting justice rather encourages unjust “justice”. “What will happen to me and to my position if I do not prove this crime”? This is what forces many police officers to employ coercive tactics during interrogation.

False Ego-concepts and Status threatening: Who is a police officer? The answer is simple. A police officer is one who is to protect the human rights of others. How can a police officer function conscientiously if he is not human rights-friendly? A police officer will experience uneasiness of his ‘human conscience’ whenever he becomes human rights-unfriendly. Some do not have such uneasiness, because they have false ego-concepts. They think that they can do so for ensuring social welfare. We may call it ethical subjectivism. Protection of violating human rights is a legitimate and grave duty for police officers/men who have responsible concern over people’s life and property. If they do not show such responsibility, it shows that there is the defective formation of ego-concepts. Human rights-unfriendly police officers/men are those who suffer from defective ego-concepts and consequent status threatening.

I would like to endorse some commonly accepted facts put up by one NGO, Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative.

* Poor performance on the professional front combined with misuse of power by the police are the broad factors that contribute to the poor image.

* Political interference is the most important reason for misuse of power by police. Priority is needed to establish mechanisms to insulate the police against the illegitimate outside interference. Provide adequate resources, infrastructure, better pay scales and better service condition will improve the status of police.

* The three most prominent features of the ugly face of the police man in India are his brutality, corruption and partiality. Police partiality is a cause of very serious concern. It goes against the very fundamental of the police philosophy, which requires the police to function impartially as an agent of law, unaffected by caste or communal consideration or the status and riches of political parties concerned. The philosophy of police neutrality is embedded in the concept of rule of law. If the police are not neutral, the rule of law gets devalued. It is extremely important for the police to design strategies which would help in winning public faith in police neutrality. Some psychological test should be prescribed to ensure that persons with wrong attitudes are eliminated in the very beginning itself. There should be constant periodic screening and weeding out of wrong types from the force.

* The argument given by some policemen that the police are unjustly singled out for corruption when other departments are equally corrupt is not very convincing. The police are armed with tremendous powers and even minor misuse of these powers can create greater damage than the harm caused by even larger incidence of corruption in other department of the government. The stigma of corruption attached to the police has the effect of undermining public faith in the effectiveness of the police to do their job in a just and effective manner. Nexus between money power and political power inevitably generated unhealthy contacts down the line between different levels of administration on one side and the other. Mala fide exercise of power at different levels in the police is induced by such links. The problem of police corruption cannot, therefore, be satisfactorily tackled unless these links are broken.

* The police admit that they usually use brutal methods. They consider lack of skill in investigation work, pressure of work and desire for quick results as the three most important reasons for use of third degree methods. They also find it very effective to do so. The majority of them prefer occasionally using third degree methods for successful investigations. The needs to improve investigations skills provide forensic science facilities at the police station level and make judicial inquiry mandatory in cases of custodial death and grievous hurt has been stressed to reduce use of third degree methods by police.

Criminal Behavior

As the causation of crime is linked with several sociological factors like corruption, poverty, lack of recreational facilities, broken home, crime-wave and in fact State failure, the role of police for the prevention of crime in society should be after fully understanding the social psychology of the people and the situation which give birth to various types of crimes. Every time and everywhere, a criminal is caught by police to make him a reformed citizen. It has been observed that a good number of police officers/men are still reluctant to accept the idea that crime-doers are also human beings and most of them are not atypical or abnormal. No doubt, the use of third degree in police work is indicative of the lack of ability to understand the psychology of those who commit crimes or the inability to employ affective psychology techniques of crimes. “Some of the unfortunate who have had a bitter experience of police stations say that the scar left by the police in their soul and body has made them complete wrecks in the sea of life…the roughing up at the police hands prior to court action has been more cruel than the ‘eye-for-eye’, ‘truth-for-truth’ principle of criminal justice.”

While interacting with the crime-doer and interpreting their behavior, let the police take into account—

* Having committed a crime, no one deserves to be treated harshly by the police.

* A crime-doer too has all the right, privileges and safeguards which any other citizen enjoys in society. The difference between a criminal citizen and a non-criminal citizen is that the former is detected while the latter is not although each one commits crimes in his/her own ways.

* Police often deal with crime-doer who does not require extensive treatment in correctional institutions. A good many of the crime-doer, when they are punished by a court, get only short-term-sentences. They, more often than not, complete their period and come out without getting any specialized treatment. Once they are not out of the correctional institutions, they as a rule are not great threats to the safety and security of the State.

* Criminal and the tendency to commit crime and are seen in everybody including the police officers. There is no crime-doer who is totally criminal in his feeling, word and actions. He is good in many respects and therefore, tries to see the good sides of the crime-doer’s personality.

Code of Conduct for the police in India

Government of India in 1985 enacted the following principle for police conduct. They are:

1. The police must bear faithful allegiance to the Constitution India and respect and uphold the right of the citizens as guaranteed by it.

2. The police should not question the propriety or necessity of any law duly enacted. They should enforce the law firmly and impartially, without fear or favor, malice or vindictiveness.

3. The police should recognize and respect the limitation of their powers and functions. They should not usurp or even seem to usurp the functions of the judiciary and sit in judgment on cases to avenge individuals and punish the guilty.

4. In securing the observance of law or in maintaining order, the police should, as far as practicable, use the methods of persuasion, advice and warning. When the application of force becomes inevitable, only the irreducible minimum of force required in the circumstances should be used.

5. The prime duty of the police is to prevent crime and disorder and the police must recognize that the test of their efficiency is the absence of both and not the visible evidence of police in dealing with them.

6. The police must recognize that they are members of the public, with the only   difference that in the interest of the society and on its behalf they are employed to give full time attention to duties which are normally incumbent on every citizen to perform.

7. The police should realize that the efficient performance of their duties will be dependent on the extent of ready cooperation that they receive from the public. This, in turn, will depend on their ability to secure public approval of their conduct and action and to earn and retain public respect and confidence.

8. The police should always keep the welfare of the people in mind be sympathetic and considerate towards them. They should always be ready to offer individual service and friendship and tender necessary assistance to all without regard to their wealth or social standing.

9. The police should always place duty before self, should remain calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule and should be ready to sacrifice their lives in protecting those of others.

10. The police should always be courteous and well-mannered; they should be dependable and impartial; they should possess dignity and courage; and should cultivate, character and the trust of the people.

11. Integrity of the highest order is the fundament basis of the prestige of the police. Recognizing this, the police must keep their private lives scrupulously clean, develop self restraint and be truthful and honest in thought and deed, in both personal and official life, so that the public may regard them as exemplary citizens.

12. The police should recognize that their full utility to the State is best ensured only by maintaining a high standard of discipline, faithful performance of duties in accordance with law and implicit obedience to the lawful direction of commanding rank and absolute loyalty to the force and by keeping themselves in a state of constant training and preparedness.

13. As members of a secular, democratic State, the police should strive continually to rise above personal prejudices and promote harmony and spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and region or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of woman and disadvantage segment of the society.

Common Guidelines of Successful Interrogation

In fact police in India is facing various types of problems like working in the situation deteriorated by the poor infrastructure, lack of proper training and scientific skill, unfair pressure from politicians and other superiors and so on.

The guidelines given are serious standard to be observed by the interrogator with sole objective of the respecting human rights of others;

1. Preparing himself for interrogation: Basic investigations work should be completed and the interrogator should have in his mind the complete picture of the crime. He should prepare a set of questions and think about possible answers and has to disapprove those answers.

2. Selecting a congenial place for the interrogation: A quite undisturbed place is to be selected for interrogation and the process should not be disturbed by anyone. Extraneous disturbances will enable the suspect to break the tempo.

3. Remembering that the suspect has prepared himself for interrogation even before committing the crime, and will be having answers and justification ready. He should be allowed to have his say and periodically during the interrogation, he should be questioned on those points. Contradiction should be carefully noted in the interrogator’s mind, in order to confront the suspect later.

4. The interrogator should be assume a friendly posture, and be soft spoken and sympathetic. Arrogance, a superior attitude and loud noise will make the suspect withdraw into a shell.

5. Interrogator should behave in a dignified manner, not display feeling of revenge, brutality and hate. The suspect can deal with one who is undignified but he will find it difficult to deal with one who is dignified in his responses.

6. The suspect knows the truth and he can call the bluff. It will only make him bold to come out with false statements.

7. Interrogator should not request the suspect to admit guilt. This will only amuse the suspect and embolden him to hold out.

8. Interrogator should never allow the suspect to intimidate by silence: Keep on talking, not necessarily about crime, even about general matters. The suspect will interrupt to correct or add once he breaks the silence; it is easy to resume questioning.

9. Interrogator should not make false promises that can never be kept.

10. Interrogator should not threaten the suspect with reprisals on his dear or near ones. Nor he should deal with them brutally in the presence of the suspect.

11. Interrogator should behave and talk the crime as though it is a normal occurrence not attach the great importance to it except that it has to be solved for professional reasons.

12. Interrogator should not express surprise or shocked when the suspect narrates the various facets of the crime, nor express condemnation or appreciation.

13. Interrogator should always keep the upper hand in the situation. Never allow the suspect to get on top of the situation.

14. Interrogator should choose his word and languages carefully.

15. Tap record the entire proceedings.

16. Patience pays: In his attempt to get out of the situation the suspect will lie. If the interrogator confronts him with contradictions, he will know that the game is up and will come clean.

17. Never confront the suspect physically with the witnesses. It will spoil the case, as the suspect will harbor hatred against the witnesses. He should see them only in the trial.

18. In the interrogation room, keep big pictures of the glory details of the crime, preferably color photos. Do not refer to them at all. The suspect will notice them subconsciously; remorse will often take hold of him. When in a remorseful mood, he will cooperative more.

19. Interrogation is battle of wits. Never joint it unarmed. Keep your wits around.

Training and human rights education

In police training institutions, the trainees are given physical training, parade and other outdoor activities. Do they enjoy ‘adequate self-esteem’ when they are on the parade ground? If the allegations are true, then there was a time when the physical instructors used to titter indecent words, and to show undesirable signs etc. The most of the physical training instructors is accustomed to cause excessive fatigue to the trainees by forcing them to do physical exercises and parade. Not only that the trainees in such situations lose their self esteem, but also they develop possible hostility towards everyone including their teachers.

A person who respects themselves will respect others. This is a simple principle. Self esteem means to respect the human dignity and equal rights of people. How does the physical fitness program help police trainees for developing self-esteem? In some police training institutions several months of outdoor training is given to make the passing out parade very colorful.  Once the passing out parade is over people try to forget what they do in the parade ground.

Therefore in addition to the harsh physical training of the outdoor, police should want a conducive and tranquil classroom for injecting them with concept and know-how of the human rights standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international human rights legal instruments and provisions in the Indian Constitution.

Again regular refreshers training to update their understanding of the human rights value during carrying out their normal duties should be a heavy concern for the Government and higher authorities in police department.

*The article is written by Jinine Laishramcha.

*The writer is a human rights defender; MA Human Rights, IIHR, New Delhi; Certificate Course in Conflict Analysis, USIP, Washington DC and International Humanitarian Law Training, ICRC, Geneva.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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