This article is written by Kashish Goyal from Mody University of Science and Technology, Rajasthan, and curated by Shruti Chaudhary from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.
At the beginning of the ongoing lockdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, when strict rules were laid down regarding the lockdown to be followed by everyone, the people who were not following the rules were beaten up by the cops with lathi and sticks. It is understandable that the rules should be strictly followed but those people who only stepped out of their homes for buying the essential goods were also beaten up by the police brutally, also leading to the death of some persons. There have been many incidents in which the cops have acted beyond reasonable action. For this, upper responsible authority shall make laws with restrictions for the police authority to deal with such situations accordingly.
The cops mostly deal with the accused as if they are offenders and their offense has already been declared by the judge. Those Prisoners who are in custody are also tortured by the police, time and again.
If we talk about justice, then in relation to the brutality, the public more often than not justifies brutality by saying that the punishment should be given to such criminals. However, how can the constables who are hired by the authority torture them brutally before the judgment is being delivered?
Each criminal has a right to live with dignity, even in case if someone breaks the law or any rule. He/she shall be punished but he/she has some fundamental rights which should not be violated while giving punishment. It was held in the case of Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra that “the right of the prisoner in custody or jail is included under Article 14 and 19 of the Indian constitution.”
Given below is the brief outline of the recent police brutality case (Jayaraj and Fenix case) that has gained attention and public outcry in the last few days.
The case pertains to the father-son duo of Jayaraj and Fenix who were allegedly mercilessly killed because of being the victims of violation in police custody.
On 18th June 2020, Jayaraj and Fenix, father and son respectively, had a verbal argument over defying curfew that was in place for controlling COVID-19. The next day, the police took Jayaraj to the police station for an inquiry. After this, when his son Fenix got to know about this, he went to the police station immediately to take some answers but the police replied that they just called him for the inquiry. Even after trying for 24 hours, Fenix was not allowed to meet Jayaraj. On the contrary, the police also arrested fenix and kept both of them in custody, for the sole reason that they kept their shop open till late at night. This case made a remarkable history in Tamil Nadu. Both Jayaraj and Fenix were gravely assaulted by the police and even sodomized in custody. Although according to The Times of India, on June 20 2020, the police took them to a local hospital for a mandatory checkup to present them before the magistrate. The two were allegedly unfit and required serious medical treatment for the injuries they suffered at the hands of the police but the hospital discharged them. However, they succumbed to the injuries and died eventually. It has been claimed by Fenix’s lawyer that during the time of custody they were physically as well as sexually assaulted by the police.
In another case of the Tirunelveli district, a person was taken at the police station to produce an original document of the bike. After he failed to produce a document, he was thrashed, assaulted, and stripped for an hour and rendered him unable to walk, requiring serious medical treatment.
There have been multiple complaints against the brutality of the police but these complaints had not been taken seriously and servitude of justice appears to be a far-fetched idea. A collective voice should be raised by the people against such happenings and there should be a campaign through which awareness can spread.
Many questions have been raised about the outrageous and brutal behaviour of the police officers pertaining to the deaths of Jayaraj and Fenix.
The question is whether it is a crime to brutally assault because of the breakdown of lockdown rule?
India does not only need the suspension of the cops or the police officers but there is a dire need to bring a change in the system, to make the police officers more accountable and answerable.
As per the Indian Annual report of Torture, in India, more than five custodial deaths are reported every day. This problem is not new. It has become a continuous chain of custodial deaths nowadays. And the Tamil Nadu government is not taking any appropriate action without the order of a higher authority. The guidelines which are mentioned in the police manuals need to be strictly followed and implemented especially regarding the interrogation and lawbreakers. Even after weeks of committing of custodial deaths, the officers responsible are mostly not punished. The investigation procedure of our country is too slow, which is one of the main reasons why justice is served decades later if it does because the matter which should be investigated at that particular time is being investigated after a long time because there are already many cases that are pending in courts.
It is not the duty of any particular authority to provide justice; the duty, in general, lies with the society. If there is cooperation between the public and the supreme authority for any particular offense, justice will be served as soon as possible. Because when a collective voice is raised, it puts pressure on the authority to deal with the situation.
The rules and regulations which are made for the police and cops to be followed by them while they are on the duty, should be implemented properly and if these rules are violated, there shall be provisions with consequences proportional to the violation committed. In certain circumstances, it becomes necessary for the authority to adopt drastic measures but there should always be a limit.