Criminal Law Reforms in view of Police Brutality

“The Police must obey the law while enforcing the Law”

-Earl Warren

We all are witnessing an unprecedented event of COVID-19. This pandemic has tested everyone to their limits. However, this difficult time showed us how police plays a pivotal role in our life. Several news surfaced stating how police took care of homeless aged people by celebrating their birthday, bringing them cake and gifts to ensure they don’t feel alone in absence of their families. Apart from this police and doctors are front line warriors and we can never forget the sacrifice of the souls lost in this fight. But a question strikes here in our minds that, “why we didn’t have the same clean image of police in our minds before all this news?” were they not good before this pandemic?

Understanding Police Force

Protection of citizens and execution of law are the two major objective behind the establishment of police by the Constitution of India. Police comes under the state-controlled subject. About 3% of the budget is sanctioned early for the development and maintenance of police force by state and central government. But, one thing that every person misses to notice is that, nearly 24% of the seats in police remains vacant. This ultimately put a very heavy burden the shoulders of handful of policemen serving in this profession.

There is police force both at state and central level. While central level police force or Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are more equipped for handling situation of grave emergency and border security, State Police force is responsible for maintaining day to day order in the state. Further at state level there are two classes of police force a Civil Force and Armed Force. Civil force has the responsibility of promoting law and order in and Armed Forces are kept reserved for the stressful situations like Riots.

No matter how simplified this system seems there occurs some discrepancies when it comes to getting order to act in real life. There is confusion as to who is the superior state or central.

Decline in the Reputation of Police

It has become a common parlance for common people to consider brutality as only a physical act of causing harm. But this peculiar mind set is not acceptable in modern world. Brutality in today’s developing society has changed its meaning and effect. Brutality is not only arbitrary use of physical power but even small things like teasing, particularly eve-teasing, also comes under the purview of brutality. It can be said that today scope of brutality has increased very widely.

Is it brutality alone which is the reason for all the negative view towards the declination of reputation in government in the eye of citizen? Simple answer to this is no. Police have been caught up in various cases like corruption, fake F.I.R lodgings, botched up investigation, etc.

There have been numerous instances where police refuse to register F.I.R stating the jurisdictional contingencies. However in cases of Lalita Kumari the Supreme Court had held that it is the duty of Police officer to register a F.I.R disclosing a cognizable offence regardless if that police station has territorial jurisdiction or not and must transfer the case to the appropriate police station upon preliminary investigation according to the provision contained in Section-156 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

It has been noted that various complaints received by the Magistrate under Section-190 of CRPC is regarding the police officer refusal to register FIR against their colleague officer. This is the indicator of high level of corruption within the department.

These instances have made people lose their faith in the police. Situation got worse when people started preferring to resolve the issue outside instead of going to police as they might only get troubled by the officers and will not be able to reach a solution. Whenever there is any police brutality incident the first thing that people do is begin to relate the incident to the infamous incident of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 13th April 1919. However, comparing that to modern time, we infer that, the incident of 1919 was a very direct event but today brutality incidents have become quite enigmatic and often occur in the name of maintaining civil order.

Instances of Police Brutality

First ever documented case in Indian History of police brutality is with no doubt Jallianwala Bagh Massacre on 13th April 1919. There have been various Bollywood movies made on the incident of police brutality which tried to improve the tainted image of police force. Some famous example of these movie is Shootout at Lokhandwala and Shootout at Wadala. These movies were able to demonstrate the brutality of police in a very descriptive manner.

In very recent matter which has again spiked the need for reforms in police have come up in the case of Custodial Death of Father and Son in Tamil Nadu. These father and sons were booked for a crime which would have attracted a maximum punishment of three months if found guilty then what made the situations so drastic that a trivial allegation on them costed their life. Now a thing here is that those that the father was booked by police officer for not closing his mobile shop upon in order of police in the light of lockdown and was taken to the police station. The son protested or questioned the police officer for torturing his father who was in his 60’s. This general questioning of son hurt the ego of the police officer and both father and son died because of the police brutality even upon being presented to the district magistrate in a very bad condition but were still subjected to the police custody instead of being treated in hospital. Here, it can be noted that how corrupt and deceptive has the system of police become in recent times.

In the year 2020 we witnessed another event of police brutality in the George Floyd Death Case in the United States of America. Where a black person succumbed to death when a police officer officer allegedly pinned him down by pressing his leg against the neck. This event spiked a nationwide protest in the USA against the police brutality and racial discrimination.

One thing which is pertinent to note here is that, Police brutality is an international issue of the present time. There are countries with even worse instances of police brutalities, but these don’t come to light because of the arbitrary power being exercised over the citizens and media of those nations.

Reforms in the Light of Police Brutality

Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for the filing of criminal complaint against the concerned officer but the issue here is that there is no mechanism of Independent investigation. Other recourses available to person aggrieved by the police brutality is to:

- Seek Compensation for the violation of fundamental rights from the High Court and the Supreme Court

- Reliefs can be sought from National and State Human Rights Commissions

Although according to law no police officer can be held liable for an offence when acting under the color of his position. But these protections like the provided under section-197 of Criminal Procedure Court have also been misused.

In case of Prakash Singh v/s Union of Indian (2006) the Supreme Court directed for the establishment of state police complaints authority at district level. Recommendations of these authorities for departmental or criminal action against delinquent police officer would be binding as the court.

Also, it was observed by the court in the same case that first report of National Police Commission dealt with the modalities in complaints against the conduct of police officer but none of these recommendations were implemented at all.

It was noted in the report of NITI AYOG that most of the states have not all have made any changes in the police statute according to the recommendations of court in Prakash Singh Case. Apart from these there have been various commission setup by the government. These are:

- National Police Commission (1977),

- Ribeiro Committee (1998),

- Padmanabhaiah Committee (2000),

- Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice (2002).

But none of these recommendations were accepted properly by the state government.


Apart from the setting up of commissions there hardly have been any other step towards the reforming the system of police in India. But are they entirely wrong in doing so is the real question I would like to answer?

It is true that there are various instances where police can be blamed of brutality with no doubt but have, we ever looked into the factor which made them to take the recourse of brutality.

Frustration that a policeman goes through is unimaginable for us. They have pressure of senior officer on them to close the case as quickly as possible further they are pressurized and threatened by the political influences against taking action in anything which relate to the political person concerned and if some how they dodge these pressure then there is a never ending pressure of running a whole house in the trivial amount they receive they get in the name of salary which ultimately force them to resort to the option of bribe. I am not saying that by this way bribe is justified. There is nothing in this world that can justify corruption in any manner. All I want to indicate is that one must take all the adversaries of a policeman into account before changing policies. In my view taking away the power of policeman would be a drastic step instead of it we need to put a check on these powers and make your it gets followed strictly.

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