Police Complaints Authority to Be Constituted to Deal with Custodial Violence Charges

The new authority, which will be chaired by a retired high court judge, has been approved for dealing with complaints of custodial rape, custodial death, extortion or any serious abuse of authority.

Custodial torture and other ill-treatment are widespread in India. Credit: Reuters

Custodial torture and other ill-treatment are widespread in India. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Citizens seeking to lodge complaints of ‘serious misconduct’ against police personnel in New Delhi will soon be able to approach an independent Police Complaints Authority (PCA).

The new authority will deal with complaints of custodial rape, custodial death, extortion or any serious abuse of authority.

The notification for the creation of the PCA, in pursuance of the directions of the Supreme Court, was issued by the Lieutenant-Governor on January 29. As per the notification, the Police Complaint Authority of National Capital Territory of Delhi would be headed by a chairperson and would have three members, one of whom would be a woman. While the chairman would be a retired high court judge, the other members either be “a person of repute and stature from civil society; a retired civil servant of minimum of scale of secretary to government of Delhi with experience in public administration; and a retired police officer of minimum of scale of joint commissioner/inspector general of police or corresponding rank”.

The notification, however, states that in case a woman is appointed as the chairperson, then it would not be mandatory to have a woman member.

On the role and functions of the PCA, the notification states that it would inquire into allegations of serious misconduct against police personnel either suo motu on a complaint received from either a victim or any person on his/her behalf on a sworn affidavit, or the National Human Rights Commission or the Lieutenant Governor or chief secretary or principal secretary (Home) of Delhi government.

The notification also lays down that the PCA may not entertain those cases which are under consideration before any court or the NHRC or any other statutory body. Further, it said cases of complaint regarding Delhi police would be looked into by the authority and not by the Public Grievance Commission and that cases related to the police pending with the NHRC would be transferred to the PCA.

Following the issuance of the notification, the Delhi high court on February 6 had approved of it while hearing a case filed by by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in 2015.

According to CHRI, which has been lauded for the recent development, the creation of a PCA for Delhi was first thought of 11 years ago. “In 2006, the Supreme Court ordered all states and union territories to set up PCAs as one of seven directives to usher in police accountability. A PCA is intended to be a free-standing, independent adjudicator with diverse membership, to act as a remedy for the public and a corrective on the police,” it said.

Recalling the developments that had followed, CHRI had noted that in 2012, after a six-year gap, the Delhi government, with the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), had extended the mandate of the existing Public Grievances Commission in the city to also respond to complaints against the police.

But, the rights group said “as this was in total violation of the Court’s directive, CHRI filed a petition in the Delhi High Court in 2015 seeking an independent specialised PCA”.

Now, it said, its essential demand has been met as the notification creates a PCA that largely fits the model set out by the Supreme Court. We point to some remaining gaps and have prepared recommendations to make the PCA more robust.”

The coordinator of Police Reform Programme at CHRI, Devika Prasad, said the earlier model suggested was not feasible as PGC was hearing all kinds of civil complaints too. “CHRI welcomes this long-awaited step towards strengthened police accountability in Delhi. We will continue to engage with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, the Delhi government, and the Ministry of Home Affairs to address the remaining gaps and assist in the development of an independent and effective PCA for Delhi,” she said.

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