ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Policing the Police

Despite people’s faith in the police becoming precarious, the pace of police reforms is dismal.

For the first time in India, two policemen were sentenced to death last month for a case of custodial death in Kerala, and three other policemen were awarded imprisonment. The torturing and killing of a young man, Udayakumar, had taken place in 2005 and the police were sentenced last month by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. Given India’s dismal record on custodial deaths, the case merits a study of how several factors came together favourably in the course of 13 years, to ensure the sentencing. It also highlights, for the umpteenth time, the contempt for due processes and the lack of accountability shown by the police force when dealing with crime, and the total neglect by the centre and states of the clear directive given by the Supreme Court on police reforms in 2006.

In the present case, it was the diligence shown by the officer and doctor who conducted the inquest and post-mortem, respectively, in Udayakumar’s case. The state government did its part in suspending the concerned circle inspector and the crime branch chargesheeted and arrested the two policemen accused of using torture. When the prosecution’s main witnesses turned hostile, it was Udayakumar’s mother who petitioned the Kerala High Court to order a CBI inquiry, and it was the CBI court that conducted the exemplary trial. The fate of a majority of other such trials in the numerous cases of custodial torture and killings is strewn with impediments that are familiar: witnesses who turn hostile, doctors who give in to the pressure to give the police a clean chit in the post-mortem report, investigations that are little better than “cover-ups” for the accused, and the vulnerability of the family of the victims who are unable to get legal and financial help.

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Updated On : 16th Aug, 2018
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