Sunday, September 19, 2021

Police constables suspended for assault on auto-rickshaw driver

Two cops beating up auto-rickshaw driver suspended later

It is true that to work during pandemic on roads is really risky. After the doctors, nurses and medical staff, it is the police who are helping the people to recover. Somewhere they were seen involved in acts of great humanity by carrying the bodies or helping victims of corona. They are all appreciated, and society will be thankful to them.  But when they beat people mercilessly on roads, they should be told that they are not goonda’s who defy the law with their muscle power. They are police personnel, who are not supposed to commit offences on people like beating them. They have no authority. No law empowers them to beat, whether on roads, or in custody or in prison. I wrote an article in these columns saying police have no authority to injure people, even if the latter violated the norms of the lockdown.

Also read: Which law authorizes you to beat people on Road, Mr. DGP?

In case of Osheen Sharma and Others Vs The State Of Madhya Pradesh And Others (W.P. No.9595/2021), the Madhya Pradesh High Court on May 27 said the same thing.  It has reiterated its earlier direction that no citizen who is found not wearing mask or not following social distancing norms or not following lockdown conditions should be subjected to corporal punishment or beating.

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The livelaw.in reported that the Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Atul  Sreedharan  stated this, while directing the Superintendent of Police, Indore, to take appropriate action against the erring police officials on complaints of excesses and beating by police. A public interest litigation petition was filed by  Osheen Sharma and others, seeking direction to register FIR against two Police Constables posted at Police Station – Pardeshipura, Indore, as they allegedly misused their powers and subjected innocent rickshaw-puller to merciless beating. They also prayed for a direction to the respondents to constitute an independent Committee or Grievance Cell, who may examine the complaints against excesses misconduct of the Policemen.

Also read: Brave Father and a Humane Daughter

Petitioners have shown many instances of police assaulting the people, through several clips. The Indian Express, Bhopal Edition, on April 8, 2021, exposed two constables of Police Station – Pardeshipura, Indore, were placed under suspension after their video beating an auto-rickshaw driver became viral on social media: allegedly for not wearing the mask in a proper manner. Earlier also the two policemen deployed at Malwa Mill Gate stopped the auto-rickshaw driver to explain why he was not wearing mask properly in as much as, the mask had slipped down his nose. The auto-rickshaw driver explained that since his father was ailing and was hospitalized, he was going to visit him but this did not appeal to the policemen, who asked him to come to the police station.

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It was also submitted that on refusal to come to the police station scuffle took place between the policemen and the auto-rickshaw driver and he was forcibly dragged to the police station and the son of the rickshaw driver standing over there pleaded before the policemen not to beat his father.

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They pointed out to three other cases of police atrocity apart from referring to a case wherein a lawyer and two journalists were also subjected to assault by the police in Madhya Pradesh in the last three months.

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Further, ordering action against the erring police officials, the High Court remarked that the policemen should rather counsel people by sensitizing them about the need of following Covid protocols such as wearing mask, following norms of social distancing or abiding by lockdown/Corona curfew restrictions. Lastly, the Court said,

This Court in this respect reiterates its earlier directions already issued in the order dated 17.5.2021, passed in W. P. No.8655/2021 (Shekhar Choudhary Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and others) that no citizen who is found not wearing mask or not following social distancing norms or not following lockdown conditions, should be subjected to corporal punishment or beating.

Also read: DGPs, CMs – Don’t clampdown on Covid Comments in Social Media

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.

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