Police in India Endorse Encounter Killing, Mob Punishment: Study

A new report has also highlighted how long work hours, absence of weekly offs and political and departmental pressure are impacting police personnel in the country.

New Delhi: Nearly half the police personnel in India feel that Muslims are likely to be “naturally prone” towards committing a crime. Likewise, a large percentage of police personnel believe that “being in the police requires physical strength and aggressive behaviour which women lack; women police are incapable of handing high-intensity crimes and cases; and because of inflexible working hours, it is not alright for women to work in the police force as they cannot attend to homely duties.”

A number of such biases and prejudices have been highlighted in a study titled ‘Status of Policing in India Report 2019,’ which primarily dealt with the issue of ‘Police Adequacy and Working Conditions’. Brought out by Common Cause and Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the report was released by former Supreme Court Justice Jasti Chelameswar, social activist Aruna Roy, former director-general of police Prakash Singh and senior advocate Vrinda Grover.

The report also highlighted that the majority of police personnel endorse encounter killings and punishment by a mob for cow slaughter, kidnapping, rape and even road accidents.

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As many as 35% of the personnel said it was natural for the mob to punish the culprit in case of cow slaughter, while about 40% justified mob violence towards those accused of rape, kidnapping and road accidents in which driver was negligent.

Cops want dangerous criminals eliminated

Many police personnel also appeared inclined towards delivering justice themselves. Nearly 20% said it was better to kill dangerous criminals than have a trial. Nearly 75% opted for violence towards criminals and 37% advocated punishment in place of legal trial for minor offences. Also, 40% of police personnel felt that 16-18-year-olds in conflict with the law should be treated as adults while dealing with criminal cases.

The voluminous 188-page report examined the conditions in which the Indian police functions. Director of CSDS, Sanjay Kumar said this was the second report in a series. An earlier report last year had dealt with people’s opinion about the police. This time, he said, the exercise involved interviewing the police personnel in 21 states to learn about the conditions they worked in and to know their perception of crime and society at large.

Former Supreme Court Justice Jasti Chelameswar, senior advocate Vrinda Grover, social activist Aruna Roy and former director-general of police Prakash Singh at the release of the report. Photo: The Wire

Director of Common Cause, Vipul Mudgal made a presentation about the report. He said the idea behind the report is to create a series of baseline documents on policing in India to see how the criminal justice system works in practice.

For the preparation of the report, he said, 11,834 police personnel and 10,535 of their family members were interviewed in 105 locations across 21 states.

Reserved categories, women not adequately represented

Some of the major findings of the study were that most states do not fulfil the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Class quota. The vacancies in the reserved category were also found to be much higher than in the general category.

The percentage of women in the force also dropped from 11.4% in 2007 to 10.2% in 2016. None of the states was found to have 33% representation of women in the force.

The report also alluded to how following a Supreme Court ruling on providing at least a two-year term during one posting to senior police officers, the number of violations of this norm dropped from 37% in 2007 to 13% in 2006.

Transfers of cops rise in election years

However, during election years, it still noted a spurt in such transfers. In the case of Rajasthan, 98% of SSPs and DIGs were transferred in 1998 and in Jharkhand, 53% of officers were transferred during poll years.

The report also pointed to inadequacies in police infrastructure. It did not find any wireless facility in 70 police stations and no phone facility in 224. In Assam and Bihar, it found on average less than one computer per police station.

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The study also found police personnel grossly undertrained with only 6.4% having received in-service training. In the best of states, this figure did not cross 20%. As many as 53% personnel said they spent on stationery from their own pockets while 46% complained of not getting a government vehicle when they needed one for work.

14-hour workday is the average

The report also discovered that police personnel in India work for an average of 14 hours each day, half of them do not get any weekly day off and nearly 50% work overtime regularly despite 80% not getting paid for such overtime work. Due to such working conditions, most of them were not able to spend adequate time with their families. While forensics is an important part of policing, about a third never received any training on it.

Another important aspect of the study was that it established how politicians and senior police officers normally interfere in the police investigation – 28% personnel said “pressure from politicians” was the biggest hindrance in their investigations while 72% said they experienced such pressure in cases involving influential persons. Sixty percent also complained of “departmental pressure” while handling investigations.