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Gauhati High Court directs Assam government to train police on behaviour in public

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The Gauhati High Court while observing that though tolerance is a personal capability, the respondent authorities should periodically apprise their police personnel, more particularly on site, and practical training should be given by higher officers of the respondent authorities, passed certain directions to the respondent authorities for police personnel.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice R.M. Chhaya and Justice Soumitra Saikia disposed of a suo motu PIL based on the alarming letter addressed by Manish Goswami, Advocate, Supreme Court against the police atrocities, which took place at Paltan Bazar, Guwahati City on March 17, 2022.

It has been pointed out in the said letter that on the fateful day, a person was riding a two-wheeler along with his wife and his three year old child at Paltan Bazaar, Guwahati. On an allegation of a minor traffic violation, the Police Constable on duty assaulted the person riding the said two wheeler. Such action of the Constable involved in the incident was captured on camera and had also gone viral on social media.

There were allegations and counter allegations for which the bike rider, on a minor traffic infraction of driving on the wrong side of the road, had a heated argument which led to a brawl. The report on the contrary shows that the other police personnel also tried to indulge into similar activities.

On cognizance being taken by the High Court as a suo-moto public interest litigation, an affidavit-in-opposition was filed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime), Guwahati, Assam, wherein it is pointed out that an FIR was lodged at Paltan Bazaar Police Station, which came to be registered as Paltan Bazaar Police Station against the bike rider for alleged offences under Sections 294/341/353 and 325 of IPC.

He has averred in the said affidavit that investigation was carried out and Final Report has been submitted as insufficient evidence against the alleged accused and the Final Report has also been accepted by the trial Court.

The affidavit further recites that another FIR was lodged by the wife of the accused which was registered as Paltan Bazaar Police Station under Sections 341/294/325/34 of IPC, which has also been investigated and further investigation is still pending. The respondent authorities have taken departmental action against the Police Constable against whom the misconduct is alleged and has been suspended from service pending the enquiry. As per the affidavit, the same is at the stage of first showcause notice. The affidavit also recites that Departmental Proceedings have been drawn up against the other two Police Constables involved in the incident, who joined the Police Constable when the brawl took place on 17.03.2022.

U.K. Nair, senior standing counsel, Gauhati High Court contended that the purpose and object of initiating this public interest litigation is not just to take action against the erring police personnel but as expressed in the communication, the police personnel are required to be specially trained for the said purpose. Nair further contended that the respondent authorities have not indicated any such aspect in their affidavit-in-opposition and, therefore, appropriate directions are required to be given by the High Court.

R.K. Borah, Additional Senior Government Advocate, Assam has relied upon the affidavit-in-opposition dated 31.08.2022 filed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime), Guwahati, Assam and has contended that the respondent authorities have seriously taken the complaint and have taken appropriate action against the erring police personnel. Borah, however, has submitted that the State Government shall carry out any further directions that may be deemed fit in the peculiar facts of this case.

While considering the PIL held that it is no doubt true that the authorities have initiated Departmental Proceedings against the erring police personnel and are also investigating the FIR lodged by the wife of the victim.

However, as expressed in the body of the petition, for a trivial traffic offence, the police personnel should not and cannot be permitted to take law in their hands. As rightly expressed by the Advocate, who has drawn attention of the High Court, we stay in a society where rule of law prevails and, therefore, it is eminently necessary for the respondent authorities to impart appropriate training to their police personnel and make them citizen centric while discharging their duties. In fact, the Final Report submitted in relation to FIR clearly establishes the fact that the allegations levelled against the victim Shri Biki Prasad Gupta are without any foundation , the Bench further held.

“Police may have the authority to control the traffic but the same cannot be handled as a tool to violate the fundamental rights of the citizen. Steps which are taken by the authorities against the erring police personnel do not end the agony of the citizens at large.” It is, however, clarified by the Court that if there is any breach of traffic rules, the police personnel could have taken action in accordance with law instead of using force on the innocent citizens.

The High Court opined that such an incident occurred because of lack of training in police personnel.

“Though tolerance is a personal capability, the respondent authorities should periodically apprise their police personnel, more particularly on site, and practical training should be given by higher officers of the respondent authorities. The police personnel, who are handling the traffic at traffic junctions, are required to keep citizen centric approach instead of using their might”, observed the High Court.

The respondent authorities are, therefore, directed by the Court as under:-

(i) To impart training to all Police Constables, who are handing traffic in cities, more particularly at all district levels, to remain citizen centric;

(ii) The respondent authorities are hereby directed to educate their police personnel about their rights and responsibilities as a public servant;

(iii) Appropriate basic knowledge of law relating to the same should be imparted by conducting training of police personnel. The respondent authorities can take help and guidance of the Assam State Legal Services Authority (ASLSA) for the same;

(iv) The State Government should constitute a Committee for the same also consisting of the Member Secretary, Assam State Legal Services Authority (ASLSA) in order to avoid any such similar incident in future;

“The State to carry out these directions scrupulously and the Member Secretary, Assam State Legal Services Authority (ASLSA), is directed to see that the above directions are carried out in its true letter and spirit”, the order read.

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