Police brutality is also known as police violence which is legally defined as a civil rights violation where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a civilian and include physical or verbal harassment, physical or mental injury, property damage, and death, etc.

Custodial violence means violence in police custody and judicial custody. Some of the provisions, laws or Acts like Sections 330, 331 & 348 of IPC; Sections 25 & 26 of the Indian Evidence Act; Section 76 of CrPC and Section 29 of the Police Act, 1861 were enacted to curb the tendency of policemen to resort to torture to extract confessions, etc.
Causes of Police brutality & Custodial Violence:
  • Work Pressure
  • Greed for Money
  • Punitive Violence
  • Positive re-enforcement
  • Police Subculture
  • Lack of Proper Training
Why it is in talks Today?
Nation-wide protests against CAA and NRC have exposed the police’s heavy-handed approach towards the protestors. Many of them alleged that the disproportionate and indiscriminate force applied by the police. In some states, reports indicate of custodial torture and ransacking of homes. Custodial deaths are on the rise as 427 people have lost their lives in police custody between 2016 and 2019 as it was 282 between 2013 and 2015. According to a survey, 83% of the police personnel believed that a violent approach towards criminals to extract confessions is good for society. Recently, the Supreme Court called for police reforms and the NITI Aayog also presented its recommendations. But in the amid of such deliberations, the police violence continues.
Police as a Political Instrument
Since the relationship between police and citizen is feudal. But in recent times, after the prime minister’s 24th March 2020 call for the 21-day lockdown across the country, Uttar Pradesh chief minister who governed the state was at a religious ceremony at Ayodhya and He was brazen enough to tweet about it. But, there have been no murmurs from the police on this violation of the PM’s call while performing Lathi-charge to a Common Man which clearly shows that Sometimes, Police is used as a political instrument.
Efforts to curb police brutality and custodial violence: Police reforms have always been a “red herring” for the policymakers. Some of the Efforts to curb the police brutality and custodial violence’s are as followed:
1. National Police Commission Reports
The National Police Commission prepared eight reports between 1979 and 1981 and recommended several Police reforms which are as follows:-
  • The first report recommended a fair and just arrangement of an inquiry for the complaints against the police and departmental inquiry by superiors or inquiry by an independent agency.
  • The second report recommended the establishment of the “Criminal Justice Commission” which will monitor the performance of various wings and agencies of the police and correct the measures.
  • The third report talked about having separate investigation wings for the marginalized/sensitive sections of the society like the SC/ST.
  • The fourth report recommended inserting Section 50 A in CrPC and providing protection in case of an arrest.
  • The fifth report pointed out the reason for the poor public perception of the police in public is police biases, corruption, brutality, and police harassment.
  • The Sixth report talked about the separate investigating wing and the law and order wing of the police.
  • The seventh report dealt with the establishment of the Central Police Committee at Centre level which will advise on police reforms, police organization, etc.
  • The eight reports talked about fixing police accountability by developing a system of monitoring and evaluating police performance.
2. Various Committees Recommendations
After the failure of the NPC, several Committees were established for police reforms. Some of them are as:
Riberio Committee (1998), Padhmanabhaiah Committee (2000), Malimath Committee (2003) 
The main aim of all these committees was to make police more accountable, efficient, and reforming the system of policing so that political influence over police can be minimized. 
3. Expert’s Committee Draft
The Ministry of Home Affairs set up an Expert Committee to draft a new Model Police Act in September 2005 as per the recommendations of one of the Review Committee to replace the Police Act, 1861. The Committee submitted a model Police Act on 30th October 2006.
Some of the salient features of the Model Police Act are:-
  • Functional autonomy
  • Encouraging professionalism
  • Accountability paramount
  • Improved service conditions
4. Law Commission’s Reports
Law commission prepared several reports where it tried to suggest ways to reduce police brutality.
Some of them are as:-
  • Law Commission 152nd report on Custodial Crimes made several recommendations to reduce custodial violence.
  • Law Commission 177th report suggested an amendment of section 55A to CrPC, which protects the health and safety of the arrested person. 
  • Law Commission 268th report suggested the insertion of section 41(1A) and amendment of 41B to CrPC, where police officer must inform the rights of the arrested person, and easy process of getting bail. 
  • Law Commission 217th report recommended widening the definition of torture and including “inflicting injury, either intentionally or involuntarily, or even an attempt to cause such an injury, which will include the physical, mental or psychological injury.” 
5. Supreme Court’s Directions
In the landmark judgment of Prakash Singh v. Union of India 2006 8 SCC 1, the Supreme Court provided six directives for police reforms which are as follows:
  • Constitute a State Security Commission on the models recommended by the National Human Rights Commission, the Reberio Committee, or the Sorabjee Committee.
  • Select the Director General of Police of the State from amongst three senior-most officers of the Department impaneled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission. 
  • Prescribe minimum tenure of two years to the police officers on operational duties.
  • Separate investigating police from law & order police.
  • Set up a Police Establishment Board at the state level for deciding all transfers, postings, promotions, and other service-related matters of officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
  • Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the State and District level for looking into the complaints against police officers.
Why It Did Not Work Well?
Since, “Police” as a State subject in the seventh schedule to the Constitution of India, the State Governments have to implement the various police reforms measures. The Centre has been making the no. of consistent efforts to persuade the States from time to time to bring the reforms in the Police administration to meet the expectations of the people. Various recommendations of the Committees/Commissions were sent to the State Governments/UT Administrations for taking necessary action but the rest depends on the state governments.
Solutions to Curb Police Brutality and Custodial Violence
Several other steps have to be taken for Police Reforms, Some of them are as:
  • To establish Independent Civilian Oversight Body (ICOB) with the jurisdiction over Police force to make a recommendation at the time of a violation of the law (custodial violence, serious misconduct, corruption, etc.), and such a recommendation should be binding on the state. Community policing, 
  • To establish Special Courts or benches to deal with police brutality & custodial violence.
  • Modernization of the police force,
  • Strict abidance to the recommendation and directives made by the Law Commission and Supreme Courts.

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