Every time I heard Behen Mayawatiji saying she will put an end to Goonda Raj, I felt someone was daring to speak the language that people wanted to hear. The fact that Behen Mayawati has secured overwhelming support is supposedly an endorsement of her declared challenge. It is undeniable that this has been a strong contributor in her victory.
Nithari is still fresh in our minds. It was not an accident but the symptom of a long festering disease, of all that has been wrong with our policing practices since Independence. Recall cases of missing children of poor migrants when their complaints of kidnapping were not being taken, leave alone recorded. Every time they went to complain, they were
harassed. The suspects — at times they were even named — were not arrested. Instead, they were being alerted and protected.
All this, because the suspects could buy off and influence the authorities. The poor complainants, on the other hand, were often non-existent on the electoral rolls and had nothing to offer to the powers-that-be. They were in fact considered usurpers of precious land and a liability for the system.
Police officers were failing even in their basic duties of inspections, supervision and accessibility, with probable favourites moving back and forth. The ‘uncomfortable’ ones were simply transferred.
If Mayawati is to live up to her challenge of ending Goonda Raj, she has to address the Nitharis head on.
Apex decree The Supreme Court has already given categorical directions that address the root of such problems, in the judgment of September 22, 2006, which was reiterated on January 11 this year: “We issue the following directions to the Central Governments, State Government and Union Territories for compliance till framing of appropriate legislation.”
Here are the key parameters set by the apex court that the state has obviously ignored.
- Selection of the DGP: The Director General of Police, according to the apex court’s directions, has to be from among the three seniormost officers who are empanelled. The criteria include length of service, very good record, and range of experience. Once selected, he should be given a minimum tenure of two years, removable only for incapacity in performance by the State Security Commission.
Besides the DGP, officers on operational duties — namely, Inspector General of Police (in-charge Zone), Deputy Inspector General (in-charge Range), the District Superintendents of Police and the Station House Officers — also get fixed tenures. They too could be removed only for reasons of disciplinary proceedings (as against what we have seen happen soon after the takeover).
Implementation of these directions will insulate the police from political vagaries and eliminate the insecurity of professional policing. This will ensure fearless but accountable policing.
- Setting up of the State Security Commission:
1. This commission, chaired by the chief minister and having eminent members of civil society, state civil and police service, retired members of judicial service and even the Opposition leader if she so chooses, will provide the state an accountable ‘watch dog’. The commission is directed to be set up by the apex court to ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence on the state police. Also, the commission will lay down broad policy guidelines ensuring the police always acts according to the laws of the land. This is meant to prevent policing issues from getting politicised and stop goondas from using one party against the other.
2. The state should work on separating investigation from law and order, to ensure speedier probes under better expertise, and to improve rapport with the people. The Supreme Court directed that the separation could start with towns or cities that have a population above 10 lakhs and gradually extend to smaller towns. By this, goondas will be effectively investigated, expeditiously prosecuted, and can be kept in jail for longer periods for reformation.
3. A police complaint authority should be set up at state and district levels to look into serious complaints, including custody deaths, abuse of authority etc, against police officers up to the rank of Superintendent of Police. This authority would comprise retired judicial members, police and eminent members of civil society. This would ensure that the police do not play favourites, nor take the law in their own hands.
Besides all of the above, the apex court has directed that self-executing directions be implemented within the police department by the respective DGPs. This would include setting up of an Establishment Board that ensures objectivity with insulation for transfers, postings, promotions, and other related matters for officers of and below the rank of deputy superintendent of police.
Once the state administration and state police have these professional and accountable systems in place, goondas can be neutralised without (false) encounters.