Every society gets a kind of policing it deserves

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A young couple feel that their marriage has gone for a toss. The aggrieved wife comes to police station and reports that her husband and his relatives have subjected her to cruelty and harassment. Police officers in charge of the Police Station sends husband and wife to Women’s Cell in district police headquarters. Officers in the Women’s  cell try to counsel the couple and resolve the differences. Compromise is not achieved. The aggrieved women and her parents (the complainants) come back to police station and says, enough of negotiation, I would like you to register a case and take action against my husband and his relatives. Police officer promptly registers an FIR under section 498A of IPC and hands over a copy of FIR to the aggrieved lady.

Now, the “big question” is would you go ahead and arrest the accused, i.e. her husband and his relatives? If you do not immediately arrest them, the women complains, “Police have taken money from the accused party (husband) and police is not taking any action on them.” If you make an immediate arrest, supreme court says, you can not make immediate arrest. [See recent SC judgement]. Even if you arrest them after taking the statements of relatives and those who can confirm that the husband has actually subjected the woman to cruelty and harassment, the actions of police is not justified at least not every time. The worst is, if you make the arrest and the case is subsequently acquitted in the court (which happens 85% of the times) the kind of emotional and psychological crisis they go through and the kind of irreversible damage it does to the family is tremendous.

On other hand, if the woman is actually subjected to cruelty and harassment, and if the police do not arrest them, or if the accused party gets anticipatory bail, then its a gross injustice to the victim (woman). Worst is, if such case is acquitted in the court of law, it ruins the life of that poor lady.

As of today, “As many as 3,72,706 cases of such nature (498A) are pending trial of which on current estimate, nearly 3,17,000 are likely to result in acquittal”. In 2012, Nearly 2,00,000 people are arrested in these cases, out of which 47,951 are women. Which means, sisters and mothers of the accused man are liberally included in the arrest net. i.e unnecessary legal harassment to the relatives of husband.

There is another side to this story, may be there is another way of looking at it. You can say, out of 3,72,706 cases, as many as 3,17,000 cases are going to be acquitted and only 55,706 cases are going to be convicted. Meaning, there are so many women who are being subjected to cruelty and harassment and only few are going to be convicted!

If the case is convicted, accused party blames police for manipulating the case. If the case is acquitted, the woman and her family suffers and the man go on to marry another woman leaving the victim in the crisis. Whether there is an acquittal or conviction, police is always on the receiving end from either of the interested parties in the case.

This is not to say that all policemen are honest. The conviction of the case depends on various factors. Ability of the investigating officer, availability of the evidence, willingness of the victims and witnesses to cooperate during the trial, ability of the public prosecutor to successfully put across the argument, etc. Case may be acquitted for a simple reason that one of the main witness turns hostile during the trial. Whatever the reasons for acquittal be, it is the police who receive maximum criticism.

If you act, there is a problem. If you don’t act, there is a problem. In either way, police is on receiving end.

The society must understand that the policemen are drawn from the same society in which the police machinery functions. Policemen inherit all the traits of the society, the good, the bad and the ugly. We all are part and parcel of the same society. Its a chicken and egg kind of relation between policemen and the society. “Every society gets a kind of policing it deserves. [Robert Kennedy]”

Not all people in the society are bad. Not all policemen are bad. And yes, not all policemen are good either. All that we need to do is, stand up, be bold, and raise your voice against those who are bad. Understand your legal rights, tell the bad guys that the law is same for all. Assert yourself with adequate knowledge of law. If you do not understand law, seek help from a lawyer. Let me tell you with all conviction that, we are living in the times where even policemen are afraid of law. Whether or not there is a problem in taking or not taking an action, policemen will act, and they will act in a way they should be, provided you raise your voice, provided you raise your voice for a right cause.

If all that do not convince you, you can give a try and see for yourself!

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.