Tuesday, June 9, 2015

When the law kills (Part – 1) Teesta Setalvad Published in Rashtriya Sahara Urdu, May 2015

When the law kills
(Part – 1)

Teesta Setalvad

More than a month ago, on the same bloody Tuesday, April 7, 2015, in the newly formed Telangana and Andhra Pradeh brutal killings took place. Two incidents, when lawmakers became the killers. ‘Extra judicial killings’ (and enforced disappearances) are issues of gross human rights violations where our Courts have spoken, albeit in a very delayed a diluted form.
Within five to six weeks of these ghastly killings (that did not make it to the private television networks for any rational or human rights based discussions) none less than India’s defence minister justified a trigger happy attitude in the armed forced in Jammu and Kashmir, when in an interview to the TOI, he said, “ Our proactive attitude is to identify terrorists and then effectively neutralise them. Every case is handled firmly with clear-cut intelligence for targeted kills, ensuring minimal if any collateral damage.” While there was suitable outrage at the remarks and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPIM issued a strong statement through its polit bureau, the overall lack of accountability in our law and order machinery, unlawful killings and disappearances especially when it comes to margialised sections, our poor, our Muslim minority, our Dalits and Adivasis raises serious questions of humane governance and accountability in our democracy.

The two most recent unlawful incidents took place in the Warrangal district of Telangana where the police escorting five under-trial prisoners shot them dead on the pretext that one of them tried to snatch a firearm from one of the escorts in a bid to flee police custody; and the second incident where 20 men alleged to be smugglers of red sandalwood were shot dead in the Seshachalam forest of Chittoor district in a joint-operation conducted by the Andhra Police and Forest Officials.

It is worse how the head of the Andhra Police, Director General of Police, J V Ramudu when questioned by journalists, whether the police in the Chittoor incident could have shot the deceased in the legs to avoid such a large number of deaths is alleged to have replied: "Is there a law that you should shoot on the legs? Dont ask nonsense questions(sic)". Readers may check this news item at this link: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/andhra-government-defiant-continues-to-defend-chittoor-encounter/article1-1335343.aspx. This denila of their basic functioning and accountability sums up, in a nutshell, the attitude of the law to it’s citizenry.

The Andhra Pradesh Police Manual mentions the following norms regarding the use of force in relation to smugglers who are categorised under 'Organised Crime:
"J Organised Crime:
543-1-B. Organised crime is committed against property, persons or human welfare, engineered by a leader with members professing fierce loyalty. Organised crime in a large measure affects law and order and public order...
D. Boot legging, prostitution, gambling, manipulation of bids or tenders in auctions and contracts, land grabbing, illegal possession or dispossession of property, protection money, rigging elections, loan sharking (usury), extortion, kidnapping for ransom, drug trafficking, illicit trade in fire arms, explosives, smuggling, thefts of antiquities and cultural properties, trading in animal skins and human organs are some of the activities of criminal groups, which are some times small outfits and sometimes large...
546-3-A-D. The resistance to arrest is likely in such cases. In effecting arrest no force than what is permissible under the law should be used. All guidelines regarding arrest should be complied with." (Vol. 2, Chapter 29 accessible at:http://apstatepolice.org/jsp/appm/appm/appm/manch/c30.htm#30543)
954-1-A. Police are expected to work within the framework of law and are not expected to take law into their own hands on the plea that the existing law is not sufficient. They cannot play that role of lawmakers and judiciary. It is for the other wings to take care on the point of sufficiency or insufficiency of law. Police are only expected to play the role of an enforcing agency.
Reasons for violation of human rights by police
950-1. Some of the reasons for violation of human rights by police can be attributed to the following,
A. Lack of interrogation techniques.
B. Lack of scientific temper and professionalism.
C. Lack of knowledge of criminal law and procedures for investigation.
D. Unrealistic public expectation for results.
E. Political and official pressures for quick results.
F. Misconception that laws are not sufficient to achieve results legally.
G. Sadistic pleasure on the part of some police officers.
Code of conduct for the police to avoid allegations of violation of human rights
954-1-B. The police in establishing and enforcing law must as far as practicable, use the methods of persuasion, advice and warning. When use of force is inevitable, it must be as per the procedure and to be the bare minimum.  (Vol. 2, Chapter 54 accessible at: http://apstatepolice.org/jsp/appm/appm/appm/manch/c54.htm#3v54951)
Right of Private defence
740-3. In the matter of dispersal of unlawful assembly the right of private defence can be exercised to protect the life and property of public or to protect themselves. This right can be exercised by using force as much as is necessary and as long as it is necessary. This right extends even to the causing of death in certain cases as laid down in section 100 IPC as against body and in section 103 IPC as against property. The police should exercise this right cautiously. Any amount of exceeding the right may make them liable for penal action as per law. Therefore, the police officers must make a judicious use of this right, only in dire need to save the life and property, when occasion arises as shown in sections 100 and 103 IPC."  (See Vol. 2, Chapter 39 at: http://apstatepolice.org/jsp/appm/appm/appm/manch/c39.htm#2v39740

Not once, not twice but thrice does the Andhra Pradesh Police's own operations manual require reasonable restraint in the use of lethal force. The DGP's alleged statement is in complete violation of the norms and standards laid down by the police for themselves. I am not even going into the international standards on the use of force and also what has recognised by Courts in India to buttress my argument as they only strengthen this position.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the High Court in Hyderabad have sought reports about the Chittoor incident from the Government. The district administration has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the Warangal incident while the NHRC has issued notice demanding a report of the incident from the Telangana Government. In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh there is outrage. But not much seems to have affected the establishment.

Worse is the statement of the Defence Minister. It is almost a sanction for unilateral killing if the Intelligence decides that someone is a terrorist. Notorious for its mis-judgements and misdemeanors this wing of our state law and order apparatus, (the IB and RAW) are not accountable to Parliament even, years after operations are ‘planned’ and ‘executed.” Besides be it in the Hashimpura case (in which a trial court recently acquitted 16 persons in probably India’s worst ever case of extra judicial/custodial killings, the paramilitary, military and army have been virtually held completely unaccountable and let off the hook.

Despite judgements of the Supreme Court that, under Articles 142 and 144 of the Indian Constitution become the law and need to be implemented, impunity rules. And the Indian people suffer at the hands of an increasingly unaccountable state.


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