The Supreme Court issued notices to Centre, Chief Secretaries (CS), Home Secretaries, DGPs and Police Commissioners of all the states and Union territories seeking explanation on whether a 2006 court judgement on police reforms has been implemented.
The seven-year old court judgement was regarding the Prakash Singh Case, in which two former DGPs - Prakash Singh & N K Singh - filed a PIL in 1996 seeking a Supreme Court order for governments to implement the National Police Commission recommendations to improve policing.
The court's recent issuing of notices comes in the light of police brutality on helpless women and teachers in Punjab and Patna.
Over a week ago, a woman was publicly beaten up by Punjab police in Taran Taran when she approached them to file a sexual harassment complaint. The shocking incident, which took place on 4 March, was caught on tape and circulated by media.
On March 5, a peaceful protest by contractual teachers in front of Patna Assembly culminated into a violent episode of tear gas shelling and baton charges by police personnel.
Both cases were taken into suo motu cognisance based on media reports.
Gauging the magnanimity of the incidents, the bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and Kurian Joseph decried the police beatings as barbaric and described them as 'animal behaviour'.
The bench sought an affidavit from the Punjab and Bihar DGPs for detailed reports on the recent police action in the two cases.
When the Punjab defence counsel assured that necessary enquiry will be tabled on the accused policemen in the Taran Taran case, the bench remarked, "That report (enquiry) will be performance of funeral of the incident. Don't pull wool over the eyes of people."
The bench said it was unfortunate that policemen, who were temporarily suspended, are usually reinstated sooner or later, and at times even honoured. The agitated bench then asked pertinently, "Does it not shake your conscience when police beats up a helpless lady?"
Blaming citizens for not taking initiative in the Taran Taran woman beating, the bench questioned, "What is the accountability of citizens? People were standing around...what were they doing? Are we becoming a senseless society?' and lamented "This happens every day in all parts of the country."
The bench condemned the police's "lathis" tactic and considered it similar to the British approach in the pre-independence era when demonstrators were subjected to flogging and other public forms of punishment.
Attorney general G E Vahanvati expressing shock over the police brutality suggested that senior police officials should be held accountable for their excessive use of force. Amicus curiae UU Lalit, who submitted clippings of the videotaped incidents, requested the court that the victims be compensated for the atrocities committed by policemen.
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