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Lack of trust


The call for a Doon Bandh as a pressure tactic to obtain the withdrawal of a police complaint against a leading businessman and politician by the son of the City Magistrate reveals the ugly truth about the condition of law and order in the state. That ‘supporters’ of both sides to the controversy have resorted to agitation and threats to pressurise the administration indicates that they do not have faith in the processes of the law and the capabilities of the police to undertake a fair investigation, indeed, any investigation at all. It was a minor fracas considering the kind of road rage to be seen every day, but where ordinary people keep their cool and ensure as little involvement with the police as possible, it is clearly a major clash of egos here.
This incident shows that the general belief among the privileged and the not so privileged is that the police only functions under pressure and cannot be trusted to act fairly on its own. This perception is a sad comment on the state of the Indian state and shows the fear and distrust of the establishment that the common man carries. Just consider the kind of performance the force must be putting to have earned such a reputation. Reports are received almost on a daily basis about the shenanigans cops indulge in, the latest being a request that the family of a missing person book a taxi for the investigators to move around in. It is normal for an investigative officer to demand a pack of cigarettes and other comforts before getting down to the job of taking statements from the victims of a crime. Since so much of the case in India is based on the statements of witnesses, it can be understood how important what a cop writes down is for anybody trying to obtain justice.
It is obvious that legal and criminal matters are not to be decided on the basis of how many people one can get on to the street, or to gherao the police station. Unfortunately, this is the cover being used by all kinds of criminals to continue with their activities. The ordinary person, who has neither a community, or interest group, or political party to provide backing, has little hope of getting the cops to bestir themselves on his or her behalf. This is the case when the entire purpose of the Indian Constitution and modern concept of human rights requires that being in the right should be the only clout necessary, with the machinery of state geared to strictly upholding the law. The processes and procedures should be such that they automatically kick in to provide succour to a victim. The police, prosecuting officers, magistrates and the courts should be trained to get to the crux of a situation and undertake measures to pin down the culprit with rapidity and firm resolve.
Just as the bad reputation of the police triggers protests and confrontations of the sort being witnessed in Doon these days, even if there were no real reason for the doubt, a ‘good’ reputation would work to resolve situations merely because the citizens would put their trust in the system. This would release the energies of the police for the performance of more important tasks than managing bandhs and demonstrations. Getting the police into such a position should be the priority of the senior officials of the force, otherwise there is no end to how bad things can get.