National Social Watch released the third perspective paper on “Are the Indian Police a Law unto themselves?” and organized the policy dialogue on the same on 9th July 2011 at India International Centre, New Delhi. Ms. Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General of India, Supreme Court was the key note speaker. Seema Mustafa, Senior Journalist, N. K. Singh (I.P.S. Retd.) and President, Samta Party and Prof. Kamal Chenoy, Chairperson, Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, School of International studies, JNU were present as the panellists.
Nearly 60 people representing civil society organizations, eminent individuals and scholars were present in the programme. Amitabh Behar National Convenor of Social Watch India set the ball rolling by welcoming and thanking to all the panellist and participants. Afterward he gave a brief account of the Social Watch India and about its origin. He said that it date back to 1995 when the concept of the social watch emerged for monitoring the functions of the government. He also said that even though Civil Society Organizations has shown its strong presence in India, there was no organization looking at health of the institutions and functions of the government. This led to the origin of Social Watch in India. Social Watch in India is looking into the health of the four institutions of governance i.e., the parliament, the judiciary, the executive and local self governance.
In parliament we look the performances of the parliamentarians like debates, discussions, performances of standing committees and so on. In future, we are planning to look into the performances of commissions like minorities, SCs, STs Commissions, Civil Society Organizations and media as well.
On the current perspective paper, ‘Are the India Police Law unto Themselves?’, it is important to look into the functions of the police institutions from human right perspective. It is in this context that this perspective is written.
Amitabh invited Ms. Indira Jaising to release the report. After the release of the report, K.S. Subramanian, the author of the paper shared his views and highlights of the report. He said it was in response to human rights watch, there as a need felt to bring a report on the functioning of the police in 2009. He dedicated his report to Karnbiram who passed last year. Karnbiram was a great human right activist.
Ms. Indira Jaising said that there is lack of political will to deal with policing problem in India. She also spoke of the Directive principal of state policy and fundamental right. Since law and order is state subject. Any reform on police should also include the states views keeping in mind federal character of the country. But many times centre did not seek the opinion of the state.
According to her Police Act 1861 is vague on many issues. People, even, government and police themselves are not exactly clear about the functions of the police. Superintendence role of government on police is not clear. There is a conspicuous absence of link between police and government.
N. K Singh congratulated K Subramaniam and Social Watch for the detailed study on police functions, which he described as thought provoking. He said of course there are certain weaknesses in the police system, but they have also strengthened the democracy.
Seema Mustafa said that the Social Watch Perspective Report speaks the truth and it challenges the system of police. According to her most of the times, media failed to report the government led violence. In UP and Kahmir police killed and tortured many minorities. The police brutalities escalated 1984 onward. All these were either not reported or under reported. She also highlighted of the problem faced by the police. They are not imparted proper training; they are over worked, stressed. So there is a need for the police reform.
Prof Kamal Chenoy said one of the biggest drawbacks of the Indian Constitution is that it provided political equality but not social equality. Unless there is no social equality, social unrest is bound to take place. Police are intermediaries between politician and civilian. So police cannot be law unto themselves.
The audience also actively participated in the discussion followed by the release. Participants shared their concerns, ideas and pointed out very important issues. Like Prof. D.s. Roy from IGNOU said that the attitude of people towards the police needs to be change. Ms. Soma, an Independent researcher said that there is need for training to the police on the gender issues. Civil Society has to look into this aspect that how can contribute to the police on gender issues.
The programme was ended with the vote of thanks by Himanshu Jha, National coordinator of Social Watch India.