The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) challenged the press release issued by the Indian government on 24 February claims that corruption among police officers is extremely low in the country.
According to the release, in the past three years only 75 police officers were tried for corruption in the entire country. The government claims that in the year 2007, 32 officers were charged for corruption in 24 cases; in 2008, 17 officers in 15 cases; and in 2009, 24 officers charge-sheeted in 18 cases. In comparison with similar data available from other countries, India thus has one of the least corrupt police in the world. Every Indian however knows that this is factually wrong.
It is common practice for police officers in the country to demand and accept bribes. In fact, bribery and other forms of corruption is deep-rooted in the law enforcement system that it would be hard for any average Indian to believe that there are officers within the system who are not corrupt in any form.
Though India has one of the lowest people-police ratios – latest estimate is 0.956 officers per every 1000 persons – the police force in India is one of the largest in the world. India has an estimated one million police officers.
However, the AHRC said that it has documented at least ten times more cases than what has been mentioned in the government’s report. The Transparency International’s report on India for the past four years has placed the Indian police as one of most corrupt government agencies in the country and in the world.
AHRC said that the United Nations and its mandate holders have repeatedly expressed concern about widespread corruption in the police. For instance, the UN Rapporteur on Torture has reported that the police officers in India routinely use torture as a tool for extortion of money from the poor.
Yet, it stated that it is a fact that the figures mentioned in the government’s report are true. This paradox between fact and the government statistics expose the flaws in the Indian criminal justice system and the manner in which cases involving law enforcement officers are dealt with in the country. The government report is also an indicator as to why essential initiatives and policies required to overhaul the police system is still lacking in the country.
According to AHRC, the lack of prosecution of corrupt police officers in spite of their omnipresence within the system illuminates two primary aspects — lack of complaints and absence of investigations. The ordinary people who are the worst affected by corruption in the police know that there is no point in complaining against a corrupt police officer. This is because they know from experience that their complaints will either be refused to be registered or if registered will not be investigated. In addition, there is also the possibility of the complainant facing threats from the accused officer and his peers.
AHRC recalled that Indian government’s report is also an indicator to the extent to which the government is concerned about national security. In the context of increasing security risks, it cautioned that corrupt police officers are the single largest impediment of a security framework. The report also proves that the anti-corruption framework in India has fundamental defects.
While the government of India repeatedly speaks about security concerns and restructuring its law-enforcement framework, AHRC pointed out that the report proves that most of it is either empty talk or halfhearted measures. The report must be an eye-opener for the government. It must provoke the government to review its anti-corruption policies. The report is also the call for help by the Indian police, it added.