Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Police and human rights violation: A problem of the ‘power-state’  
( This paper was presented at Kalyani University, West Bengal in November, 2013,in a seminar, 'society,governance and police'. Seminar was organized in collaboration with Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies and Indian Council of Social Research) 


This paper argues that under all types of political establishment that uses political power as its chief fuel of governance , its police force would be the prime user of such state power. As power is a fuel that habitually antagonistic to rights by its very nature, police always tend to disrespect and violate human rights by default.

Democratic states are no exception to the above rule, as they too are not different from the old power-regimes, except in the matter of having members from people’s class at the seats of state power.

The proverbial judicial delays increases the audacity of the police to disregard the rights of the people at will. Moreover, the processing and inquiries of most of the court cases are through the police source itself, hence, with their excessive hold on the power apparatus of the state, such inquiries often get shoddy before it re-reaches the courts. How do justice be possible when the guilty as well as the inquiry agent remain the
same ?

In short, police’s turning right-violators is not exactly a problem with the police themselves but with that of the institution of the power-state. The latter always remain as the blind users of the former's power. It is the absurdity of the so called peoples own form of government –democracy- remaining power-states, is the crux of the problem. A governmental form of EQUAL MEN does not have any justification in remaining a power-state. Time is ripe for modern democratic institutions to do serious research, and seek out alternative governing systems that uses fuels other than  POWER to conduct country governance. When older regimes paved way for democracy, this important factor had never gained any serious attention of any agency. Rights violation by police is, thus, only a natural calamity of the former evil.

Key words: Power, rights, violation, arbitrariness

Full paper

Police is the direct face of all the governments in the world. They represent whatever is the nature, attitude and the pre-disposition of the State behind.

Man had institutionalized upper-hand over the women in every society in the antiquity of the past. But, when civilization progressed, concepts of man-woman equality gained firm ground. Today, any talk about man’s upper hand over women, whether it is woman representation in modern parliaments, armed forces, government or private employment opportunities or sports, is anathema. Mankind was able to overcome this age old myth and wrong practice by the power of the inherent tendencies of the human civilizational progress.

Equally age old was the myth of States’ absolute power over the subjects, the citizens. When democracy took a re-birth in America after her war of independence, the prime concern of the founding fathers was how to restrict the mythic power of the state over the people in matters of daily administration. But despite their best efforts, they could not invent and firmly establish a true government of the people sans the old evil of political power as its chief fuel in governance ! Thus, democracy also has turned in every respect, a power-state in the world, in the model of the old regimes, except with the difference that the rulers here were from the class of ‘people’. What difference does it make when a dangerous weapon changes hands ? Our age failed to recognize that power, irrespective of who holds it, would show its native habits and dangers irrespective of the age, or the parties who hold it. Therefore state power, when used primarily by the police, will always show its worst characteristics by default.

It is a rigid dogma of our primarily ‘rightist’ ideology-led age that, without political power, states can not be run. After Thomas Hobbes ideology that human nature is fundamentally ‘short, nasty and brutish’,( Leviathan-1651) a belief was cemented in modern world that, states with mighty power over the people only could counter such brutish aspects of human nature. Therefore, any talk of ruling the states without the concept of POWER-STATE would be treated as non-sense and blasphemy !

 The other side of the fact, that it is the excessive power-use of the state that gets resulted in the origins of repulsive forces in society was always ignored. Power always cripples individuality and minds. It is natural law that what is suppressed and oppressed will always rise-up and revolt. Instances of people and communities not rising against oppressive forces are very rare is history.

Another aspect of excessive power use in human communities is that, it compels ordinary men to abandon their individuality, and turn non-entities. It is usual to abandon what is extremely difficult to upkeep and carry. In the contemporary rightist world, where it is the clear supremacy and reign of those who are rich and powerful, thousands of men get thrown into the dust bins of society, with no identity, social respect and dignity every day. They naturally turn into criminals, and anti-socials. This is a very usual tendency in societies where institutionalized power exists in every area of life.  

Therefore in close analysis it gets revealed that, it is power that causes criminality and anti-social tendencies in society. A contemporary US jury said to have stated it very clearly:  ‘when any criminal act is committed  in a state, the state should also bear equal responsibility, as it was the inadequacy of laws, policies and systems that had indirectly compelled citizens to commit such criminal acts’.

Let us first list what all could be such worst aspects of the rights violations, and power-abuses by police in a power-state:   

1)      Despise towards ordinary citizens

Those who hold power naturally develop despise towards those who do not possess it, and those who are under it. In the jungle days of human life, though the physically strong used to abuse the weak and the less strong, it hadn’t ever taken any institutionalized form. It was mostly one against the other, or a group against the other group. The risk of even a weak gaining upper hand in a fight was never could  be ruled out. But in today’s highly institutionalized state power over citizens, even those who hold  a little share of power is capable of pinning-down the strongest among the common citizens ! Single individual is no match against the mighty power of the impersonal state and its minutest representative.  

Police is well aware of this absolute powerlessness and helplessness of the individual citizens, and always shows utter disregard towards them. In a democratic state, with solid constitutional guidelines about safeguarding the individual dignity of every citizen, such despise and disregard is top violation of citizens’ human rights.

Whether it takes place during his visit to a police station, or in the street when he comes across the motorcade of a minister or a high governmental dignitary, such despise and disregard itself is high-grade violation of basic human rights.

2)      In case one is caught at the wrong side of any law by misfortune, a citizen comes under the absolute mercy of the police organization. It immediately turns a matter of life and death for ordinary citizens, for whom law is an unknown ghost. Court and justice comes only at a very late stage. Under the existing laws, police could book and get detention of any person for a couple of days for questioning and collection of evidence. FIR is a document prepared by a police man as the first recording of the offence reported to him. He is the one who categorize the offence under respective sections of the penal code. He uses this discretion either to harden the crime, or to dilute the crime, depending upon his whims and his subjective attitude towards the plaintiff and the offender. Both the victim and the offender are keen to have their sides safe-guarded to the maximum in the FIR, therefore the cop will utilize the occasion to pressurize both parties to gain maxim benefit for himself !

Here, rights of citizens are non-existent, and irrelevant. Power nullifies rights, especially when Police hold upper-hand here due to the party’s  embezzlement with law. If the offender is from a weaker section of society, and the petitioner is from an upper class, blatant rights violations are common. The victims under such cases do not get even get the consideration of human beings! They are just disposable thrash  before the police all over the world, and violations of the rights of these unfortunate human victims is one thing that put the very name of celebrated human CIVILIZATION into shame ! The entire human conscience is responsible and answerable to the way it treats its criminals and the legally accused , especially when the reigning political system is claimed to be the celebrated democracy. 
3)      Abuse of human body by police, or the proverbial police torture of the suspects and the accused is the naked violation of human rights:

 Torturing information and truth out from the suspects and accused is an original sin of police, in line with the other original sin of peoples own state apparatus using POWER as coercive tool in the routine state administration. Though this writer is not knowledgeable enough to conclude whether torturing without visible bruises in the body is part of police training syllabus, the way they do the job professionally and meticulously compels us to believe so. While this author was into a banking job, two staff members of one of our branches in a neighbouring state were taken into custody  after an incident of a day light robbery in the branch. The staff members were suspected to have aided the robbers in doing their job. When they surfaced after 3-4 days of police torture, this author was asked to take the victims to a doctor by the company for compassionate medical aid. They could not walk at all due to severe beating at the sole of the foot. The entire body has been assaulted, but, to the utter disbelief of the attending doctor, not even a slightest injury was there at the bone
 level ! Such is the scientific efficiency of the systematic torture methods by police, that courts always fail to nail them for the naked crime !

The threat of the state and police is more severe and fearsome a threat to modern man than the threat from wild animals and alien enemies during the primeval lives of our ancestors in the jungle !

4)      The farce of evidence collection and documents preparation: As seen above at above, police handle the delivery of justice until a case reaches a court of law. The role of the judge is to blindly sign a request for the detention of the suspect by the police for certain number of days. While preparing the charge sheet, as said before, the discretion of attributing respective sections of penal code lies with the police, and, it is a vital aspect of power use/abuse by the police.

Often the supportive statements of witnesses are arbitrarily prepared by the police on blank sheets that was got signed from them in advance. Often there is no system to verify the signature of the culprit and witnesses by the court, hence such supportive statements attached with the charge sheets are conveniently prepared by the police themselves, to aid the prosecution side. The entire job of preparing charge sheet and witness statements etc are shrouded in grey. There was a feature article series in one of the leading newspapers last year, as how hundreds of innocent Muslim youths were caught, charged and jailed by police, under the strength of fabricated documents and affidavits.. After 5 or 6 years, when the case reach the actual hearing stage in the court, often the truth gets exposed, and the victims are freed. The amount of injustice and rights violations of such innocent people always goes unheard, unnoticed and uncompensated, adding up the quantum of serious rights violations by the police. What is the chief causes of these highhandedness by the police force ?

5)      The professional compulsions of police to get culprits, and prove their guilt:

Police, as said in the beginning, is the frontal and the most visible coercive agency of the state. Getting culprits booked, and proving that they were right in charging them is an extremely compelling professional duty of police. This professional compulsion, the very act for which their force has been constituted, convert them into blind torture and abuse machines.

Power, being a very primitive human evil energy, is not habitual of accommodating reason, justice or any such fair human virtues. It is habituated to assault, conquer, cripple and crush opposition and dissent. Rights and power belong to opposite poles. They can not exist side by side. Those who demand rights under socio-political systems where power is the chief fuel, contempt  is the first and foremost emotional energy that power generate.

The contempt of the powerful against the weak and their talk of rights and power-share will always evoke the most cruel and atrocious reaction, than the rebellious cruelties of the weak against the power-holding oppressor. Such is the primitive and diabolic nature of power, especially when it is institutionalized in the community with the support of law.

Here police act as the direct representatives of the hugely impersonal state ! The oppressor is extra confident about the impersonal nature of power he holds, the helplessness of the victim is doubled, as he does not know who is his real oppressor in the fiercely impersonal authority structure. This involvement of the impersonal state in-between enhances the power of the police, as well as the helplessness  of the victim. The victim is lost for finding remedies, and the police is condemned by his duty to be atrocious and merciless. 

6)      The justice delivery role played by the police before the case reached law courts :     Every democratic state claims that one of the pillars of democracy is the free and fair judiciary. But unfortunately, there is a crucial interim period when Police is the whole and sole authority for making or breaking a rights violation, or any criminal act involving two or more people, as once mentioned above at srl no. 2. . For all cases of criminal nature, it all starts with an FIR. As once briefed above, it is always a subjective report of a police officer about the incident of crime. He has all the power and discretion in the world to book the incident under different sections of the country’s penal code, often unheard and unknown to the involved victim.

Often the initiators of criminal cases, or the ones who file police complaints are the oppressors themselves in modern democracies, as against the general feeling that  complaints would be always from the victims’ part. These oppressors of the poor and the weak often enjoy some level of superiority in society. ( economic, social class, or degree of share in the power machinery) This puts the actual victim pitted not only against a gigantic state machinery, but also that of the power and influence of his oppressor. The police and the powerful oppressor always succeed in pinning down the victim to the ground, and presenting his crime several times more severe and serious than what the crime actually was. This calamity of the power of the police during the time of constituting the case is an extreme form of injustice ! By the time the case reaches before a judge, the ground work and the foundation of the case has already been laid by the police in such a way that, often the victim will find it impossible to untie the professional lock that the police have already put! 

Bertrand Russell in his book ‘POWER’ has stated it very powerfully (1938, Unwin books, p.192): ‘if law abiding citizens are to be protected against unjust prosecution by police, there must be two police force, one designed, as at present, to prove the guilt, the other to prove the innocence; and in addition to the public prosecutor there must be a public defender, of equal public eminence’

He continues; ‘ collection of evidence against a suspected criminal is a matter of public interest, but that the collection of evidence in his favour is his private concern’.. it is the duty of the police to seek evidence of guilt, not of innocence’ 

In a recent article ( July 2015) in leading a leading news paper, Retired Supreme-court Judge Justice Bedi remarked that, the 'pubic prosecutor must always represent JUSTICE, and act as the AGENT of police'. Nowadays, he always be with the police to see that, the State's side must win the case. He is never an agent of Justice. Here, the interest of the culprit, as well as that of Justice grossly suffer.

 Though name sake provisions exist today to get legal assistance for convicts who can not afford to have their own paid counsels, such name-sake court appointed counsels does not have any kind of motivation to fight and win the case of their ‘charity’ clients.

Therefore, leaving the fate of criminal cases at the hands of police till it is finally reach the court as a formal case, is a very gross violation of the human rights of man.

7)      Flood of criminals into the parliament: Latest statistics says almost 35% of our elected representatives in parliament have criminal past. These legislators when in power, will naturally use state power machinery to effectively transact their criminal businesses. Therefore it is natural for them to develop their strong clout in the police force, and get good majority of men in the police  as their henchmen. This section of the police force are clear enemies of people, and that of the nation.

Modern democracies are notorious for the legitimate partnership between industry and politics for the existing concept of country’s economic  ‘development’. Without an active collaboration with the police force of the state, the above nexus can not exist and flourish. The conduct of business of this section of the police force in any country should be branded as the most sad aspect of the violation of the rights of man !


How self negating it is that,  a governmental system of equal men- democracy- is not different from the old coercive and power centered regimes in the matter of  treating the unfortunate one ones who happened to indulge in unlawful activities ?

What noted Nobel prized author Albert Camus said to have quipped about the criminals in modern societies is enough to open our eyes:

‘ an age can be called truly civilized only when our modern  states start sending their criminals to mental asylums than jails ‘.

It means that human criminality needs to be looked-at and treated differently by democratic states, as they are not typical old POWER-REGIMES. Democracies are supposed to be true ‘sacred realms of man’s collectivity’, born out of the collective wisdom and rational sense of  mankind. It should not have been the highly opportunistic, mutually  competing war-fare among various class of people to grab political power, with the sole motive of occupying the mythical old ‘thrones’.

We have a brute police force who can not ever be people-friendly, and be their protectors and saviors because we have self-deceptive political institutions at the helms of affairs of mankind, taking advantages of the name of ‘peoples form of government’, but in reality, they are typical POWER-STATES similar to that of the olden times. These ‘rulers’ from the peoples calls rule with all the evil values, norms and governance paraphernalia of their predecessors ! Contemporary world can not ever have a people friendly police force until our collective sense of reason open its eyes towards the more fundamental evil; that of  having a governmental system of EQUAL MEN in name, but it is thriving with all the typical evils of the past coercive regimes.  

No wonder why the much awaited ‘police reforms’, despite the specific advice of the Supreme -court of India,  ( ) is still pending to be adopted by our state governments. What still prevails in essence, is the archaic police act of 1861 ! If a truly people friendly police force, who are well educated and scientifically trained to be the protectors of the rights of people are deployed in the country, it will be self-destructive to the above described self-deceptive political system in India. Hence, police is here to reign over people as their chief rights violators.

A ‘reinvented democracy’ is the only solution to gain true respect for the rights and dignity of people in the world, as detailed in following the blogs of the author:,

Author details:

Abraham Joseph
Founder secretary A philosophic non-profit that stands for reason, justice and fraternity.

References :

1.      ‘ Is modern democracy a fake coin ?’Abraham J.Palakudy,, link;