The few representative cases submitted here clearly show the abysmal state of lawlessness which people live in. Life here is virtually “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (as was claimed by Thomas Hobbes in his The Leviathan) for some people, particularly those who belong to the vulnerable groups such as minority communities, working class.
The alleged perpetrators in some of the cases belong to the armed forces ofIndiawhether regular military or para-military operating invariably under the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. The Act empowers members of the armed forces to use lethal force against civilians even to the causing of death on mere suspicion that they may act in breach of any law or any order along with the power to enter into any doweling places by breaking their entrance and search and seize anything without warrant and arrest any person without warrant and keep the arrestees in custody for unspecified times without charge in the valley along with the rest of Assam and parts of some other North East Indian states and Jammu and Kashmir. The AFSPA also places the army above the law, constitution and judiciary for acts claimed to be done under the Act by barring institution of prosecution, suits or any judicial procedure in any court inIndia.
Some other cases of extra-judicial execution noted above were perpetrated by the state police who operate under a state version of the AFSPA titled the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955. Along with these special security laws with draconian provisions and laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the regular law that governs the policing in Assam is the Assam Police Act, 2007, which was enacted apparently to comply with the requirements of the directives issued by the Supreme Court of India in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India (also known as the police reform case), in essence conform more with the colonial-era Police Act of 1861. The colonial police law was not aimed to provide democratic policing. It meant to create a repressive force subservient to ruling class and devoid of any accountability to the law and people.
After decades of public pressure, lack of political will and continued poor policing, a police reform process is finally underway inIndiaas the apex court stepped in. On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court delivered a historic judgment in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India and Others instructing central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives laying down practical mechanisms to kick-start reform.
The directives were aimed to ensure functional autonomy of the police and their accountability to the law. For ensuring functional autonomy the Supreme Court directed 1. to establish a State Security Commission to i. ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police; lay down broad policy guidelines aimed at promoting efficient, effective, responsive and accountable policing, in accordance with the law; give directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service oriented functions of the police; evaluate the performance of the state police and prepare a report on police performance to be placed before the state legislature.
2. The second directive was aimed at ensuring fair selection of Director General of Police (DGP) and guarantee of his tenure.
3. Security of tenure is similarly important for other police officers on operational duties in the field. In order to help them withstand undue political interference, have time to properly understand the needs of their jurisdictions and do justice to their jobs, the Supreme Court provides for a minimum tenure of two years for the following categories of officers: – Inspector General of Police (in charge of a Zone)
- Deputy Inspector General of Police (in charge of a Range)
- Superintendent of Police (in charge of a District)
- Station House Officer (in charge of a Police Station)
4. To counter the prevailing practice of subjective appointments, transfers and promotions, the Supreme Court provides for the creation of a Police Establishment Board. In effect, the Board brings these crucial service related matters largely under police control. Notably, a trend in international best practice is that government has a role in appointing and managing senior police leadership, but service related matters of other ranks remain internal matters. Experience inIndiashows that this statutory demarcation is absolutely required in order to decrease corruption and undue patronage, given the prevailing illegitimate political interference in decisions regarding police appointments, transfers and promotions.
5. the Supreme Court directed the Central Government to establish a National Security Commission for Central Police Organisations and Central Cara-Military Forces.
For ensuring accountability the Supreme Court directed the governments to set up:
6. Police Complaints Authority and
7. To separate investigation and law and order function of police.
The Commonwealth Initiative for Human Rights (CHRI), a regional human rights organization which was also one of the interveners in the Prakash Shingh case, after an analysis of the newly enacted Assam Police Act says that the Act only partially complies with the directives:
State Security Commission was established but the composition is not as per the Supreme Court directive. The Act has also weakened the mandate of the commission and has made its recommendation non-binding.
The second directive regarding selection process of the DGP and guarantee of his tenure not complied.
Directive regarding guarantee of tenure of the police officers on the field are also not complied. Only one year of tenure is guaranteed to the Superintendent of Police in charge of a district and Officer-in-Charge of a police station with vague grounds for premature removal.
Police Establishment Board was set up but the mandate was not adhered to. DGP has also been given the power to transfer any officer up to the rank of Inspector “as deemed appropriate to meet any contingency”, contrary to the directive.
The Central Government did not establish National Security Commission in utter contempt of the judgment.
The Assam Police Act, 2007 establishes Police Accountability Commission to enquire into public complaints supported by sworn statement against the police personnel for serious misconduct and perform such other functions. But the Chairperson and members of the Commission are appointed directly by the government. This can, at best, be called partial compliance.
Half hearted attempts can also be seen regarding separation of investigation from law and order function of the police. Special Crime Investigation Unit has been set up in urban police stations but there is no specific section on separation of between law and order and crime investigation.
This deliberate attempt to bypass the Supreme Court directives prompted the petitioner in the case formerAssamdirector-general of police Prakash Singh to describe the Assam Police Act, 2007, as a fraud on the people of the state. He was speaking at a seminar jointly organised by the commission and the Assam State Legal Services Authority at theAssamAdministrativeStaffCollege, Guwahati. According to him, the government had violated the letter and spirit of the apex court guidelines by passing the act without conforming to these guidelines.
The Act needs drastic amendment to be brought in conformity with the Supreme Court guidelines and to be compatible with International Human Rights Standards. More importantly the role of the police needs to be redefined “taking into account the emerging challenges of policing and security of the State, the imperatives of good governance, and respect for human rights”.
The cases cited also highlight another huge challenge to the civil and political rights inAssamwhich is non-adherence and non-implementation of laws and other instruments that are meant to protect such rights. The Supreme Court guidelines in DK Basu case, and NHRPC guidelines regarding arrest, custodial deaths have the potential to drastically reduce the number of extra-judicial executions if implemented properly. The DK Basu guidelines are only implemented in papers. In rural police stations the guidelines are not even hung in a language eligible to the public at a conspicuous place.
It may be noted that in many of the cases mentioned no magisterial inquiry was conducted in contravention of the statutory mandate of section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In the cases where such inquiries are conducted the magistrates employed were not judicial ones as is mandate of the law. Although even the executive magistrates when found in their inquiries the guilt of the accused police personnel established beyond doubt, neither prosecution has been started nor has any compensation been provided to the kin of the deceased. Apart from legal immunity provided by security legislations such as the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 there is a regime of de facto impunity guaranteed to the violators which is responsible for the increase of the cases of extrajudicial killings.
Tags: AFSPA, Arbitrary execution, Armed forces, Assam, Assam Disturbed Areas Act, Assam police, Assam Police Act, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee, Barak valley, BHRPC, Cachar, Draconian laws, Encounter, Fake encounter, Hailakandi, Immunity, Impunity, India, Indian army, Karimganj, Military, North East, Para-military, Reparation, Right to life, Special Rapporteur, Summary execution, The UN, UAPA, Use of force, Violence