Saturday, October 25, 2008

Compensation for police brutality

In India, the police derive their powers from laws enacted during the British time. These laws were meant to enforce the power of the state (and the rulers), and this sentiment drives the power and role of the police. Throughout India, if citizens are polled over the role of the police, you will find it hard to find people who have positive views. This is also my personal view; my interaction with and observations of the police have convinced me that they are generally inclined to enforce the law and protect the rule of law (and there are many honest and great police officers as well), but they also see the law and the threat of force as a way to get benefits for themselves and their masters (who certainly are not the citizens of this country). Further, as every small trader / streetside vendor / other small businessman would volunteer, if you do not keep the local policemen happy, then things will be tough:

AHMEDABAD: Supreme Court has asked additional director-general of police Rajan Priyadarshi to pay Rs 8 lakh towards compensation to the person he assaulted blinding him in one eye, during a demonstration in 1987.
The incident took place on February 1, 1987, when Priyadarshi and then inspector RJ Yadav resorted to lathicharge during a protest demonstration. In this, a Congress leader, who has recently joined BJP, Dr Prafull Thaker was injured and lost his right eye. He moved the court seeking compensation for the injury.

This must be a shock to the police officer, since the police assume that the right to use any amount of force during suppressing a protest is their given right (all the way from the brutal attack on Lala Lajpat Rai during the rule of the British), and the fact that a court could force them to pay compensation was unheard of. In the more advanced nations, powers given to the police are with responsibility and they can be prosecuted for excesses.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:57 PM