Is India already a police state?

Policemen in their different ‘avatars’ with or without uniform enjoy unbridled power and are far more powerful today than civil servants and civil society. But has that made citizens safer?



Photo by Sattish Bate/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sattish Bate/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Lemot Juste

When you want to destroy a state or a city, you take away the powers of the IAS and give them to the Army and the police—as in Kashmir, Punjab, Delhi, Manipur and Bastar. You send all senior officers of IAS from outside the state away on deputation.

Destroy the relatively independent IAS and replace it with consultants, contract employees, subordinate services; Destroy the judiciary and farm out their work to tribunals and create autocracy, repression, and a fascist state.


It is therefore nothing short of an irony that the IPS lobby, which has members among them who daily bargain with criminals and criminal politicians, who carry arms and get people tortured and killed every day in some thana or the other, and amass blood money and extortion money, is smirking at the arrest of a senior IAS officer in Bihar.


Prakash Singh, ex-DG, has made a snide remark that IAS officers have admitted to taking verbal orders from ministers, which is illegal. This is particularly rich coming from someone from a service which functions almost completely on the basis of "Huzoor ka iqbaal" or informal orders to even eliminate inconvenient people. Let us not even talk of the ‘Hafta’ that is delivered all the way to the top. Isn’t the pot calling the kettle black?


The IPS was subordinated to the IAS for a reason. The armed forces are kept in check by the magistracy for a reason. We were not envisaged in the Constitution as a police state, though in practice we are fast becoming one. And the consequences are there for all to see and feel around themselves.


The grassroots Indian politician realised around the 1960s that the police wielded much more direct power than the magistracy did. From eliminating troublesome rivals to framing false cases, detaining critics and deciding criminal cases in their favour by intimidating or manipulating evidence and witnesses, police could be trusted to deliver. So the politician cosied up to the Police. It was a match made in Hell.

The grassroots Indian politician realised around the 1960s that the police wielded much more direct power than the magistracy did. From eliminating troublesome rivals to framing false cases, detaining critics and deciding criminal cases in their favour by intimidating or manipulating evidence and witnesses, police could be trusted to deliver. So the politician cosied up to the Police. It was a match made in Hell.

In order to tame the meddlesome and the better educated civil servants, first the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended and powers of cognisance taken away from Magistrates, SDMs and DMs. Does the present generation of Indian citizens even know that up to the eighties any person arrested had to be produced before a magistrate from the civil services first? That in any criminal investigation the decision to take cognisance or not was immediately taken by the magistrate from the civil service and only then transferred to the judiciary. Thus powers of ordering arrest were also to a great extent with SDMs and DMs?


Was law and order better then or is it better now?


But why bother to think?


IAS is easy prey. Beat up the bureaucrat and watch the fun. The amendment of the CrPC and taking away of powers of cognisance of the Executive Magistracy/ Civil Services Officers in the name of separation of Executive and Judicial powers was the first step in the descent into criminal and law and order chaos.


The next was conferring the self-same powers to a great extent upon the police in the name of the Police Commissioner system which we now see in all the metros and which 'Supercops' Gill and Ribeiro popularised in Punjab.


Did we not see the rise of Dawood and Chotta Rajan in what was then Bombay after that? Did we not see the spectacle of Hunterwaali Crane Bedi and Baaba Bassi in Delhi and the gradual descent of Delhi into the ‘rape capital’ after that? And don't forget the caged parrots and other catspaws, who are now a law unto themselves?

IAS is easy prey. Beat up the bureaucrat and watch the fun. The amendment of the CrPC and taking away of powers of cognisance of the Executive Magistracy/ Civil Services Officers in the name of separation of Executive and Judicial powers was the first step in the descent into criminal and law and order chaos.

You not only take away control of the Police from the Executive Magistracy, the "civil" services (called for a reason beyond petty mockery), you even take away control from elected governments of so-called Union Territories like Delhi so that now unlike in 1960s the Delhi Police is not under a local magistrate, not even under the deputy commissioner of the concerned district of Delhi, not even under the elected Chief Minister of Delhi, but directly under the Home Minister of India.


What civil servant of what is even now the premier service of the country enjoys that kind of disproportionate “autonomy”? And where has this lopsided system of control of an arms-carrying service left us?


So be careful when you smirk at the scapegoat Sudhir Kumar, an IAS officer of the 1987 batch, who had served without blame as DM Patna and Home Secretary Bihar among other posts but is suddenly the culprit of all that's rotten in the State of Bihar.


It is your own liberty which is also at stake, wherever you may live throughout the length and breadth of India. What is happening right in front of our eyes today to a Dalit IAS officer of 30 years of seniority and with an impeccable record so far and to his family should be an eye opener for every citizen of the country. These are the sliding steps on the slippery slope to a Police State.

The author is a retired IAS officer.


This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.

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