Aarushi, Pradhyumn cases: Time to restore people’s faith in the rule of law
The government must initiate measures to depoliticise the services and ensure a fair measure of autonomy to the investigative agencies . We should have forensic laboratories at all divisional headquarters and forensic vans in districts.Updated: Nov 28, 2017 19:38 IST
Prevention and detection of crime are the primary functions of the police. Detection is a painstaking process and its success depends on the quality of investigation. The investigative standards of the police have unfortunately shown a sharp decline in the recent years. Two important cases have particularly brought the problem into focus — the Aarushi Talwar case in Uttar Pradesh and the Pradhyumn Thakur murder in Haryana. In the Aarushi case, even the CBI has not covered itself with glory.
A number of factors have contributed to the fall in investigating standards. Politicisation of the force has caused the maximum havoc. A sizeable percentage of officers today are given key assignments for their loyalty to the party in power. These officers ensure that during the investigation of important cases in which politicians belonging to or aligned to whichever party may be in power are involved, their interests are protected. No wonder, in a large number of cases, there is demand for investigation by the CBI. Not that the “caged parrot” is always objective, but in cases where the central government of the day is not interested, it is able to investigate with competence.
Declining professional standards are another important factor. During the last two decades, we have had chief ministers in several states who have used the police more to promote their political agenda than to serve the people. In two of the largest states of the country, for nearly 15 years, the police served as handmaidens to the establishment, carrying out its orders, and not worrying too much about how they treated the common man. In most of the states, the priorities of the police got completely disoriented. Serving the political masters, satisfying their greed — and their own also, in the process — became the priority because it gave good returns in the form of lucrative postings and prestigious assignments.
Lack of adequate personnel in the police forces also creates its own problems. There are shortages at all levels. The inadequate strength of investigators imposes a heavy burden on existing personnel and that leads to a dilution in the quality of investigations. Supervision by officers has also been very poor.
Political interference in investigations is another complication. More often than not, there are unwritten instructions to save this man or involve that man in a particular case. Media pressure is another contributing factor. No sooner than the incident has occurred, the media starts floating its own theories. This builds psychological pressure on the investigators and quite often they succumb to the temptation of arresting a suspect who may not be the real culprit and declaring that the case had been solved. Politicians also fall in this trap. At times, they come out with public statements, saying that they had given instructions to the police to crack the case within the next few days. A time frame creates a problem for the police and, in trying to meet the deadline, short cuts are taken with the result that the investigation gets botched up.
Inadequate forensic support compounds the problem further. A total of 654,859 exhibits were pending examination in India as on January 1, 2015. We should have forensic laboratories at all divisional headquarters and mobile forensic vans in districts. Scientific aids to investigation should be made full use of, and this must be emphasised during the training period of investigators.
The Supreme Court gave a specific direction in the police reforms case (2006) that investigation should be separated from law and order to ensure speedier probes, better expertise and improved rapport with the people. The states have, however, been dragging their feet on the matter. On the flip side, the apex court, in another judgment (2010), laid down that narco-analysis, brain mapping and polygraph tests could not be carried out on any person without consent. The judgment has deprived the police of significant scientific tools which reinforced the available evidence. The Malimath Committee had laid great emphasis on the “quest for truth” to be the guiding factor of the criminal justice system. The human rights of suspects have unfortunately taken precedence over the cause of truth and justice.
“Where law ends, tyranny begins”, said English philosopher, John Locke. People’s faith in the fairness of the administration has been eroded. The government must initiate measures to depoliticise the services and ensure a fair degree of autonomy to the investigative agencies. It is still not too late.
Prakash Singh is a retired director general of police and a police reforms campaigner
The views expressed are personal
First Published: Nov 28, 2017 17:12 IST