Prevention of Atrocity Act: When will legal proceedings be transparent?

By Martin Macwan*

The Judicial trial in the case of unnatural death of George Floyd is aired live on the American TV channel. It is also shown on other international channels. The most noticeable testimonies are of the Police officers. They have clearly testified that the accused police officer in the case has broken the rules and protocols under which police officers have been trained. These two public faces of the US police, the one with the knee of the police officer which crushed the breath out of George Floyd and the other, the testimonies of the police officers nailing the offence of the co-police officers is something which keeps the faith of the common people alive in the justice.

Is this possible in India that the Police force will follow the voice of their conscience and not use every possible arm they possess in their arsenal to defend the criminal acts of their colleagues?

True, in the case of George Floyd there has been immense international pressure on the US and its own image of ‘democratic superpower’ is at stake. It is also true, that George Floyd is one of the several hundred deaths of the black and colored US citizens at the hands of the Police in the past and not much conviction has been witnessed of the guilty. It is also true that it was the public on the streets across the US and other European countries, black, brown and white together in much large numbers than opponents who tried to raise the flag of white supremacy.

The Indian Express investigative report brings forth the details of the blatant misuse of the NSA in Uttar Pradesh and the not-so -legal- moral acts of the District Magistrates. WE had one such act of the District Magistrate in Hathras case too. Had it not been the intervention of the Allahabad High Court of quashing the charges under the draconian NSA (94 out of 120) which gives wide powers to the State, the people implicated on false grounds would have languished in the jail for many months. In the past Gujarat was one such State which registered maximum cases in the country under the TADA.

Unfortunately, the dislike of the administration in India towards the ‘Prevention of Atrocity Act’ is far greater than it is for the NSA and NIA.

What worries the common people is their inability to use the law. Recently, I came across the case of one of my own colleague Kirit Rathod. Kirit has been a dedicated community worker for over two decades and he has effectively used the RTI to help many people. What he has gone through has been horrible.

It was another person in Viramgam who was approached by a woman for help. She was in relationship with the man who was harassing her. The man with the sense of duty that the constitution expects from every citizen, guided the woman to the office of the women counsellors. His duty was done. But one fine day he received abusive call of the man who was in question and an constable from the Dasada Police station. When the abusive calls continued, the man approached Kirit Rathod for help. Kirit intervened and somehow the abusive calls were ended.

Until a few days ago Kirit received a missed call from the Constable in the question. The former did not identify the caller although his number was saved identifying him as police personnel. When Kirit called back as he is called often by the police personnel in relation to many cases he has intervened without identifying the caller, the caller was abusive. When Kirit disconnected, the man was more abusive and kept on calling repeatedly. His language and abuses are beyond tolerable by any sane person. The caller also used caste slurs. Kirit has recorded the conversation.

Kirit approached the Police. They registered the FIR only to call later saying there has been some error in the CR number. Even with intervention with the Dy. SP, the Police have refused to register the offence under the Prevention of the Atrocities Act. The reasons given by the police is baffling if not amusing; saying the offence has not taken in ‘public space’ as per requirement of the act. Is abusing someone through a public network in a way that the whole family can here the abuses is not a public place? Worse, the police are assuming the role of the judiciary to predetermine the judiciousness of reporting the crime itself.

By law, the role of the police is to investigate and not to pass the judgement. Unfortunately, the Police whose role to prevent crimes, seems more worried about prevention of registration of offences.

It needs investigation as to how many injunction orders have been obtained in the High Courts, especially in relation to the FIR registered under the Prevention of Atrocity Act?

In absence of a combined political will to counter the menace of the Caste system, no legislation, however progressive it may be, will serve as an effective tool. Such a scenario will only anger and frustrate people to disobey and disrespect the rule of law.

None other than the Police chief of Maharashtra has come on record that the home minister ordered his police officers to extort money, Rs. 100 crore per month. Is this something new? Is this something limited to the State of Maharashtra? While there is no reason to doubt the testimony of the Police chief, is it true that this is the first time in his entire career that the police officer has learnt about the nexus between the Police and the politician?

Lastly, I wonder whether we as a country will have the moral courage to conduct trial, live on the air, in the case of Bhima Koregaon.

*Founder, Navsarjan Trust and Dalit Shakti Kendra

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