Police must respect human rights

The Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has awarded a compensation of Rs 50,000 to a father and son in Bengaluru who were assaulted by two policemen without provocation, raising hopes that such acts of highhandedness by men in uniform will not go unpunished. The case dates back to July last when sub-inspector Murali and constable Lokesh of Banaswadi police station, who were deployed on Hoysala patrol duty, visited a gas stove repair shop and mercilessly beat up owner Satish and his son Samson for failing to produce the documents of a two-wheeler.  News reports then had suggested that the policemen were actually angered because one of the victims showed them disrespect by not removing his hand from his pocket. Though the victims had to be hospitalised and a police report stated that the two officers were not authorised to check vehicle documents, their superior, inspector D H Munikrishna refused to act against them and closed the case. The SHRC has ruled that the compensation amount should be recovered from all the three officers.

Since it is common for the government to give a silent burial to such cases once public ire dies, the SHRC should actively monitor all instances of abuse and ensure that exemplary punishment is handed down to the guilty so that it serves as an example to others. Unless strong deterrent action, including criminal proceedings under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, is launched against errant police officers, the human rights of the citizens will continue to be violated with impunity. At the same time, the public too has a responsibility to safeguard their rights and should proactively seek justice from the SHRC or the courts when they are wronged and their complaints are pushed under the carpet by the authorities. Even the use of vile language by policemen is punishable, with some SHRCs imposing fines as high as Rs 50,000.

The National Human Rights Commission guidelines, while regretting that human rights are often considered as obstacles in the war against crime, underlines that police should be responsive and preventive in their approach rather than reactive: “Human rights violations erode public confidence in police and isolate it from the community.” However, it should also be acknowledged that the police work under tremendous pressure and are often prone to injudicious behaviour. While they have a right to retaliate when provoked or attacked, assaulting innocent citizens deserves to be viewed seriously. Punitive action will no doubt help, but a long-term solution would be to sensitise policemen to human rights and equip them with the right techniques to handle stress without taking it out on the public.


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