By Dr R. Balashankar
The Supreme Court made a laudable observation about the police forces in India. In a judgement on 26 December 2011, a three-judge bench rejected the perception that the police was biased against the minorities. While the bench said that there may be scope for improvement of the performance of the police, it “cannot be said that the entire force is discredited.”
For years now, the police in the country has been maligned, without any basis, for playing a partisan role in communally charged situations. During several riots in the 1980s the PAC in Uttar Pradesh was accused of targeting minorities. There was an encounter in Batla House, in Jamia area in New Delhi in September 2008 in which two terrorists were killed. An inspector of police M. C. Sharma was also killed during the confrontation. Several political parties, including Congress party’s general secretary Digvijay Singh cried foul. Some even suggested that the policeman was killed by his colleagues to give credence to the encounter. Under the orders of the Delhi High Court the case was investigated by the National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC gave a clean chit to the Delhi Police in July 2009.
Politicising and communalising legitimate police action has been going on in this country for long. Gujarat police has been one of the biggest victims of this slander. The number of cases pending against police men in the state for crimes not done, cooked up by NGOs and politically motivated groups have tied the hands of the forces.
The Supreme Court comments were made in the context of a case which had received a split verdict by another bench of Justices S B Sinha and H S Bedi. One of the judges in that bench had supported acquittal of two persons from the minority community, held in a riot case in Assam in 1992, observing that the police was prone to act in a biased manner and the benefit of doubt should be given to them.
The three-judge bench under Justice Bhandari examined the split verdict and unanimously noted that there were serious and objectionable comments regarding the police force which would weaken their morale. “It will indeed be a sad day for the secular credentials of this country if the perception of the of the minority communities about the fairness and impartiality of the police force were to be what the reports are suggestive of”, they observed.
The timing of the Supreme Court observations could not have come too soon. For nearly five decades, some commissions of inquiry on riots have given rise to an alarmingly dangerous misconception that those who are in charge of protecting the life and honour of the citizen acted in a partisan manner. This impression though exceptional needed to be corrected.
The Supreme Court remarks, sadly, have not got the notice it deserved. Hardly any newspaper or the TV channel flashed or discussed the sensitive verdict. But those in the service of the nation would feel grateful that the record has been set right, may be not by the people who should have. But at least the apex court spoke up for them, loud and clear.