July 04, 2020
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Dr Caligari's Cabinet

That's police custody in UP, with a record in human rights abuse

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Dr Caligari's Cabinet

Uttar Pradesh now has yet another feather to add to its cap of ignominy. It has the worst human rights record in the country. That is, if the latest figures put out by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are to be taken seriously. A staggering 26,829 cases for the year 1999-2000 have been brought to nhrc's notice from the state. On an average, every day a shocking 73 cases of human rights violation took place in Uttar Pradesh. Most of these violations were committed by the state police. In fact, ever since the NHRC was established in 1993-94, such complaints against the UP police have increased exponentially by the year. From a meagre 223 complaints in 1994-95, it has now shot up to more than 26,000 cases. Most of these violations are custodial deaths, torture, custodial rape and Dalit atrocities.

One such case is that of Rakesh Kumar Vij of Varanasi in 1996. Vij was incapacitated after he was forced to urinate on a live electric coil to 'elicit information about a murder case'. Responding to his father Raj Kumar Vij's complaint, the NHRC asked for a report from the DGP, UP. The ssp (Varanasi) in his report had stated that the victim, who had a criminal record, sustained injuries after he fell while attempting to escape from police custody. The NHRC has, however, affirmed Vij's illegal detention and torture.

After the UP medical board submitted a misleading report stating that Vij did not suffer from any gross structural damage and that most of his complaints were fabricated, the NHRC got Vij examined at Delhi Trauma Rehabilitation Centre which gave a completely different assessment. But it was aiims which conclusively stated that he was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder with no proven treatment. Early this year, the NHRC directed the UP government to prosecute officers who tortured Vij.

That orthodoxies die hard in UP is evident from the fact that despite such a sorry record, a state commission for human rights is yet to be constituted. Lawyers believe it hasn't been set up to cover up the state's malpractices.

The UP government's defence is that only one per cent of the many complaints against the police warrant a conviction. Says additional DG (human rights) Hakam Singh: "After investigations we fond that only 5.6 per cent of the complaints were genuine."

But criminal lawyers are of the view that investigations are not conducted properly, particularly when the case involves a police official. Says senior criminal lawyer I.B. Singh: "The state is deliberately postponing the setting up of a state commission. They know it well that excesses both by the police and the government will be brought to light."

The UP police on its part says that it has included human rights in the syllabus of police training schools. Besides, a refresher course in the subject is being planned for the already functioning personnel.

But according to Shankar Sen, former director-general of the national police academy, the implementation of the National Police Commission's recommendation is vital to bring about a change in the police. Says he: "We need to overhaul the police administration. All governments, whether it is the bjp or the Congress, misuse the police force. Instead, we need to build professional policing. It is a pity that the recommendations of the police commission have not been implemented so far."

A senior police officer from western UP speaks of how the force is much-abused and overworked. "We get very little time to extract evidence from the accused under CRPC before he is produced before the court. So we have to use third degree," he confesses. Another police official points out how there are double standards involved: "On the one hand, people in high places push us into using force to extract information when a case they are interested in comes up. But we are accused of atrocities when we resort to the same methods."

Merely paying lip service will not stop human rights violations. Much more needs to be done. But the UP government thinks everything is hunky-dory. Despite a judgement by the Allahabad High Court, directing the state to establish a human rights commission, no steps have been taken in that direction. Therein hangs a sad tale.

(Reported by National Human Rights Commission)

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