HT Data Bureau, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 20, 2014

India laps up movie fare such as Singham, but the reality of policing hits harder home than a Rs. 100-crore plus flick. Such bitter reality hit students of the Jadavpur University during the early hours of Wednesday. The Kolkata Police entered the university, allegedly dragged and injured students including girls, and detained many as they raged against the alleged sexual assault on a student after a college fest. The city’s police chief claims his officers exercised restraint. The students believe otherwise and want the police punished. The students believe the police action was yet another instance of abuse of power. In India, reel-life Singhams win popularity contests, those in real are on shaky ground. Here is a look at statistics, which give an inside view.

“In many parts of india, the police is the only visible state presence. police say that there is pressure from the public to punish crimes. this leads to the police acting as judge and jury, beating up suspects who are presumed guilty without trial ” –  Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights watch Custodial violations include unlawful detention, illegal arrests, custodial deaths and torture. The numbers do not show the police in shining light. Around 3,963 cases of unlawful detention were reported from 2011 till July this year. Of these cases, 3,069 have been disposed of and 894 are pending. In the same period, 2,532 cases of illegal arrests were reported against the police —2,127 cases have been disposed of and 405 are pending. Surprisingly, Delhi, a relatively small state, comes second in the number of illegal arrests, unlawful detention and tortures in police custody. Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, tops all the charts.

“The police in india also complain that they subjected to constant pressures from politicians or other powerful individuals who acts as patrons to criminals, and demand that the police drop action against them” –  Meenakshi Ganguly

The police had 446 cases of custodial deaths registered against them in almost four years. To make matters worse, 334 or 74% of these cases are pending. In the same period, 1,456 cases of custodial torture were also registered. Here too, pending cases amount to 74% (1,088). “The NHRC does not have enough investigative capacity. it often relies on the state human rights commissions, which are understaffed and ill equipped. often there are political appointments. to be effetive, these commissions should be truly independent” –  Meenakshi Ganguly

The figures used in this story are reported cases and the actual number may be higher. Moreover, custodial deaths can also be due to ill-health, suicides, accidents and homicides among other causes. Interestingly, the system is swift while disposing of cases of illegal arrests and unlawful detention, with a disposal rate of 84% and 77%. ND Pancholi, President, Delhi chapter of the Poeple’s Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL) said, “There is no effort on the part of ruling parties to chart out police training which inculcates the feeling among police personnel that their prime responsibility is to the Constitution, rule of law and to the people”. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) takes note of these violations. In the period analysed, the NHRC filed 72 cases against illegal arrests and unlawful detention. It imposed a fine of Rs. 53 lakh. Disciplinary action was taken in 10 cases, but did not lead to any prosecutions. The NHRC also filed around 242 cases against the police for deaths and torture. A fine of Rs. 6 crore was imposed on the police. Disciplinary action was taken in 13 cases. It led to just one prosecution. Abuse by the police, however, is not solely an Indian problem. The US, a developed nation, has an average of 983 custodial deaths per year compared to 110 in India. China, on the other hand, is often under scrutiny over human rights. A study by Amnesty International — more than 21,000 people in 21 countries participated in the survey — concluded that international rules against torture are implemented the least in India, along with Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria and Peru. Interestingly, 74% respondents in India felt torture was justified to gain information.   Story Idea and written by : Sourjya Bhowmick (@Sourjyabhowmick)

  • Visualization : Vignesh Radhakrishnan (@vinuthewriter)