Police Must Be Free Of Political Pressure To Break Criminal Nexus

“Organised crime can’t flourish unless the agency that’s meant to suppress it is in collusion with them”: Ex DG, UP

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Opinion
8 min read
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The recent developments in Uttar Pradesh have brought the role of the police into focus again. We have to face and address certain basic issues relating to the functioning, role and responsibilities of the police in the system of maintaining peace and order in society.

Unless we appreciate and address these issues, nothing much is going to change for the better; I am afraid, matters might become worse.

How Petty Gangsters Become Local Lords

First of all, we have to do a causal analysis of the problem. Unless we know the root cause, unless we do the correct diagnosis, the treatment can neither be proper nor efficacious. If we have to solve a problem, we have to go into its genesis; crying hoarse and blaming all and sundry will not help society.

Such episodic expression of anguish will continue, and nothing will change substantially. Now that a crisis has suddenly developed – that is, the killing of 8 policemen by a history sheeter, Vikas Dubey – we now know that the criminal had sixty odd cases against him.

But for this tragic incident, nobody beyond local limits would have known about such an enormous caseload against him.

It implies that we as a society don't know how many such gangsters are there. From experience, one can say that each district has such formidable criminal gangs. Have they appeared suddenly? No. They have always been there. Only their nature of operations and reach has magnified. In every district, such characters have developed as ‘All in One’ – they play and combine multiple roles.

The are, to start with, small time criminals. Later, they make inroads into local politics.

They are also contractors; they deal in real estate and grab lands. Octopus-like, they develop tentacles across various fields. They gradually become the arbiters in local disputes and play an important role in resolution of petty – and at times – big issues. They, thus, become local ‘lords’. And they have the political market readily available; local politicians welcome them with open arms. Then, these criminals start dictating terms to all – including the local administrative machinery – which includes the police.

Having acquired money and muscle, these gangsters become ‘bahubalis’ at the local level, and are sought after by large sections of society. In a nutshell, they become the nodes of local power.

Snapshot
  • Some among the local police tend to develop close relations with criminal elements.
  • One fact about organised crime is certain –– that it cannot flourish unless the agency that is meant to suppress unlawful activities of operatives is in collusion with them.
  • Thus, a nexus develops between politicians, criminals, and members of the concerned law enforcement agencies.
  • Senior leadership must not only keep a strict watch on such personnel, but also shift them away and weed them out.
  • The biggest problem of the police in India is that it suffers from a ‘split personality syndrome’.
  • For day-to-day survival, it depends on the people in power and politicians, but it is ultimately, it is wholly accountable to law, legal processes and the judiciary.

Politicisation of Crime

Another aspect of our society and political system is the need to debate and agitate more than required on issues of crime. The media has also, of late, joined in this game. Every incident is blamed on the government or the ruling party of the day. A torrent of allegations follow an incident. The government, though constituted of political parties, is not wholly responsible for all crimes, petty or big.

A small percentage of crimes may be because of policies or the composition of the ruling party. Crime has its own dynamics and is expected to be dealt with by the concerned agencies, But, since the party in power (currently) had been vociferously raising such issues while they were in opposition, the parties in opposition right now are raising these issues in a similar fashion.

The media, with a limited knowledge of systems, and at times, limited vocabulary, also tends to launch campaigns of ‘media trials’.

Such impetuous reactions have become a the order of the day; no one is ready to wait for proper facts and investigation before making statements. This politicisation of, and obsession with crime, is a serious trend. This kind of relentless discourse creates avoidable pressure and strain on the police, who somehow want to work out a case or produce results.

The public however, demands ‘instant justice’.

In the 2019 Hyderabad gang rape case followed by the encounter killing of suspected perpetrators, and in the recent Kanpur case where 8 cops were shot dead, the police did provide ‘justice’ – ‘instant justice’. Due process of law becomes collateral damage along the way. This essentially becomes a clash between two approaches: Due Process of Law Vs Instant Justice.

Policing the Police

This aspect is a very important function of police leadership. Some among the local police tend to develop close relations with criminal elements. One fact about organised crime is certain –– that it cannot flourish unless the agency that is meant to suppress unlawful activities of operatives is in collusion with them. It is true of conventional crime, as also the highly sophisticated economic crimes.

Thus, a nexus develops between politicians, criminals, and members of the concerned law enforcement agencies. 

Senior leadership must not only keep a strict watch on such personnel, but also shift them away and weed them out. In our time, this nexus used to be called ‘tigadda’, the triad. And one of the most important tasks of the district officers used to be to break this ‘tigadda’. There has been some slacking on this count. At times, it is heard that some inspector is more powerful than his seniors because of his political connections.

Unless policemen are duly protected and isolated from political pressure and interference, this will unfortunately continue. 

A government employee is generally most scared of a transfer, but it is not a punishment under the rules. So, he can't appeal against it; he can't seek redressal of his grievance.

Criminal Justice System

It is the criminal justice system that has been designed to control crime and maintain order in society. This, along with social institutions, are expected to police the society, maintain order, and normal tempo in social life. The police force is only one component in this system, and is I the whole system, although an important part of it. Other components are the Legislature, Judiciary, Prosecution/Bar and Correctional Services.

We have to appreciate the difference between policing the society and police-forcing the society. 

Police reforms are a must. But, police reforms alone will not solve the problem. Unless reforms are brought into the entire Criminal Justice System, the situation may not improve satisfactorily. There have been committees and commissions, but nothing substantial has happened.

Make The Police Accountable To Law

The biggest problem of the police in India is that it suffers from a ‘split personality syndrome’. For day-to-day survival, it depends on the people in power and politicians, but it is wholly accountable to law, legal processes and the judiciary ultimately. The former's paradigm is political and partisan, whereas conformity to law is non-partisan, and impartial. It is a continuous tussle between all enforcement agencies and the political /other pressure groups. The politicians and pressure groups believe in the ‘Doctrine of My Man’ –– ‘So and so is my man – how can he be arrested or booked for any offence? If he is arrested he should be released at once because he is my man!’

The force and intensity of this attitude is more if the politician belongs to the ruling party of the day.

His entire power depends on the protection he is able to provide to his men from the operation of law. In fact, in our social milieu, the power of any politician depends on his potential to ignore and even thwart the law. It's his bhokal’ that determines his status, his ‘haisiyat’. Since a political party or some coalition form the government, this attitude has become all pervasive from top to bottom – to the worker, the karyakarta. The police accordingly behave with the party workers of different dispensations.

A policeman has to choose between his immediate survival and later, accountability under law.

So, not only should the police be protected and isolated from undesirable influences, but they must also be made accountable to law –– and law alone.

Police Must Be Made A True Agent Of Law

In India, the police is not entirely an agent of law in practice. It is under the government, the government that is run by a political party at any given point of time. So it per force behaves like a cell of the ruling party of the day – like the labour cell of that party. In a nutshell, it is a ‘Ruler's Police’ rather than a ‘Rule's Police’. This obviously leads to various complications and distortions in the rule of law. Consequently, its credibility and image are dented.

Unless it is taken out of governmental control and made a true agent of law, the situation will not improve. 

The nature of a society plays an important role in how its various agencies work – particularly its law enforcement agencies. It's not limited to the police alone. We find that other organisations that deal with enforcement in their respective fields also face almost the same problems. Be it the forest department, especially territorial or income tax – all have the same frictions. It's said that our Indian society is a peaceful one. The fact is, it is not. It has been observed by one reputed author that “Indian society is neither non-violent nor violent. It's violent to the weaker, and non-violent to the stronger.”

Social Discipline Is Needed To Allow For An Effective Criminal Justice System

We must also admit that our society is not yet fully prepared to accept and adhere to rule of law. 

Social discipline is an absolute imperative for any civilised society. It comes both from within and outside. We, as a society, utterly lack internal discipline, and respect only external discipline, usually of a coercive nature. No criminal justice system, however honest and efficient, can ensure peace and order in a society unless it exhibits a healthy respect for law, and responsible self-discipline.

‘Variations’ Of ‘Law & Order’

Law and order is a term which is generally used by all, professionals and laymen. But, it is least understood in its true sense. What does it mean? It simply means order according to the law. It has three variations.

Firstly, more of an order and less of the law. This variety prevails mostly in Islamic countries that have enforced Sharia.

The second category is the abundance of law but less of order. India belongs to this category.

The third and most ideal is order according to law in the right proportion. Some of the European and other developed countries like Japan follow this model. The nature of society again plays a central role in determining which model a country or society adopts. The ideal should be order according to law. The Police and the State should not indulge in vendetta.

UP’s Biggest Disadvantage Is Its Size & Population

As far as law and order is concerned, in the case of Uttar Pradesh, its biggest problem is its size. It's too big to be effectively governed. It has a population of around 24 crores, which was the total population of India in 1901, and 1/6th of the country's current population.

Had it been an independent country, it would have been the fifth biggest country of the world in terms of population. 

It's bigger than Brazil and neighbouring Pakistan. It's close to Indonesia, which it might overtake in the coming years, in terms of population. These countries are divided into many provinces. But UP continues as one huge state, despite the creation of Uttarakhand 20 years ago. If we have to save it from further decay, it must be split into at least four provinces. That would be necessary not only from the point of law and order, but overall development of the areas that it covers.

(The author is a retired 1975 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the Uttar Pradesh Cadre, and has held the post of DG, Uttar Pradesh, Additional Director General of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and has also been the Director General of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in India. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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