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The force is not with you

Given how much the police force has fallen in the eyes of people after the recent bribe revelations, the push for reforms should come from within the police itself.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2013 22:34 IST

In the wake of most crimes, especially horrifying ones like the Delhi gangrape last year, it has become customary to blame police inefficiency for the bungling which follows.

At times, this may seem unfair, after all the police are just one more cog in the wheel of the criminal justice system. But much of the criticism is justified.

The police force is the entry point to the justice machinery. And the experience for many people in dealing with the police is not a pleasant one.

Recently, more than 30 policemen from Nehru Nagar police station in Kurla, Mumbai, were allegedly caught on camera accepting bribes to permit the construction of an illegal structure.

The sting operation that was undertaken on the heels of the collapse of an illegal building in Thane in which 74 people lost their lives revealed some shocking facts.

A little bribe, it was found, literally means the difference between life and death. If this wasn’t enough, yet another survey by a television channel that interviewed 50 policemen in over 25 police stations in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, revealed that most of the custodians of the law said that a woman cannot be raped without her consent and it’s the victim who invites the crime.

The police thought nothing of beating up a girl in Punjab when she approached them along with her father to lodge a complaint against harassment by a truck driver and his accomplices.

There have been so many other instances of the police turning on the victim as in the case of the child rape victim who was locked up in the local station in Bulandshahr. The police, it would seem, simply do not know their job.

Policing is admittedly a very difficult and complex task in a country like India. But it is not too much to ask that the police to at least have a knowledge of the law and display sensitivity towards victims.

The Supreme Court took note of the rot in the force when, in 2006, it sought a comprehensive restructuring of the police system. Many states failed to comply with the apex court’s orders.

It is quite clear that the police must be insulated from political interference. The case of the death of one of the Delhi gang rape accused in prison comes to mind.

If the police had done their job, this man could have been brought to justice. The police force is woefully short on knowledge of evidence-gathering.

A job in the police force is often offered as a sop by powerful politicians, compromising the credentials of officers right from the entry point.

There have been stories of ‘lucrative’ beats being auctioned, even ‘lucrative’ positions being sold to the highest bidder. So, the flaws are built into the system.

The police station has long ceased to be a port of refuge and safety for victims. If people lose faith in the police, we are looking at a very dangerous situation, one in which vigilante justice could become rampant.

Given how much the force has fallen in the eyes of people after the recent bribe revelations, the push for reform should come from within the police itself.