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LACKING VIGOUR

Crime investigations continue to be influenced by political decisions in spite of periodical judicial reviews of investigation process of important cases, says Praveen Kumar.

Independence half a century back marks the greatest turning point in the history of Indian police. It marks the end of the 88-year history of policing on modern lines under the Brithish Raj which began with the enactment of the Madras District Police Act of 1859 and assumed countrywide acceptance with the enactment of the Police Act of 1861. Independence marks the beginning of the history of Indian police under Indian hands in a democratic milieu unlike of yore though in form and contents they were its continuation.

The hitch lay in its spirit, in the contradictions of the intentions of a colonial police and the traditions of a democratic police. It patently is against jus naturale to expect a colonial police transform to a democratic set-up overnight with the awakening of the country at midnight. Spirit is never known to be a quick-chameleonic, particularly while form and contents maintain their stead. Change in spirit is the natural outcome of changes in ambience leading to metamorphosis of value system and attitudes by rapid exposures to changed trails and tribulations to ripen the spirit to its new avatar. The first

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fifty years of independence of India marks this period in context of the spirit of Indian police maturing to democratic traditions in the hands of Indian rulers.

Crime investigation is a task as important to police as national security is. While national security gained currency in India after the country became independent, crime investigation along with law and order duties was the mainstay of Indian police from periods long before it. But, India never realised the importance of crime investigation in national affairs until very recently. Nonetheless, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of Mr.Edgar J Hoover in the US showed to the world around the time of India’s independence, what a powerful instrument an investigation agency can be in national affairs and how resourceful chiefs of investigation agencies can hold even the heads of governments of their countries to ransom.

PLAYING SAFE

It is to the credit of Indian Police that the primier investigation agency of the country, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Criminal Investigation

Department (CID) in states and union territories never harboured such ambitions till now. It is a different matter that in the recent years the CBI is forced by the judiciary to proceed against ranking political leaders including former union cabinet ministers and prime ministers, in discharge of its legitimate duties. Otherwise, Indian investigation agencies, both at the Centre and in regions, kept themselves away from interfering with the affairs of political leaders and their kith and kin for most parts of the period in the last

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fifty years, save dictated for limited actions by the ruling parties for political purpose as in the Classic Computer case of 1993 in Karnataka or cases against Ms. Indira Gandhi and her kin in 1977 for emergency excesses. Otherwise, they believed in the sanctity of political leaders and their associates as beyond the laws of the country.

Criminal cases filed against those people invariably fell through for lack of purposeful investigation and the trend led to the belief that powerful people are beyond the reach of law. Recent judicial activism changed the myth and infused a new vigour to the judicial and law-enforcing systems of the country. But, an investigation agency doing its legitimate duties under the pressures of the judiciary cannot be an adequate compensation for doing the same works with a missionary zeal of professional commitment. Indian investigation agencies at both the national as well as regional levels are far from any professional zeal and investigating skill seen in internationally

acclaimed investigation agencies like the Scotland Yard of England which provided the model for the CBI and other regional investigation agencies of the country.

Sadly, Indian counterparts adopted only the form and not the spirit

of the

Scotland Yard and thought it best in its indigenous wisdom not to stir the hornet’s nest by going active and radical after the FBI of the US

LACKLUSTRE PERFORMANCE Recent developments in the national crime scene of India like the CBI investigating top political leaders of the country for involvement in various scandals of

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national importance has not changed the situation of investigating agencies of India. Crime investigations continue to be a factor of political decisions, in spite of periodical judicial reviews of the investigation process

Investigation agencies enjoy tremendous leeway in carrying out investigations in desired directions in spite of judicial scrutiny of the cases. Until investigation agencies exhibit professional commitment and develop a passion to deracinate evils from the society, exercises like judicial reviews of the investigation process cannot really make

substantial differences, either to investigation agencies or to crime investigations.

Unlike spirited investigations of corrupt leaders in countries like Italy, Japan and Korea in the recent past, Indian investigation agencies dither and drag their feet back to handle cases of political corruption in spite of judicial compulsions on it. The professional and social commitments seen in those countries are a far cry from Indian police of the independent vintage. There seems to be no scope of Indian police catching up with the spirit in near future if the first half century of the democratic rule in India is any indication. Indian police leadership is too steeped in slef-promotion to be bothered by the spirits pro bono publico.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is true in the field of Indian politics as well. It is significant that after the Supreme Court of India took active interest in the investigation of crimes involving top leaders of the country, a new trend has surfaced with the post of the CBI chief being invested on somebody from

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the cadre of the state from which the chief executive of the government hails, as if to counter the pressures of the judiciary on the investigation agency. This was true in 1993 and again in 1996.

The new trend only makes clear that everything is not well in the administration of the investigation agencies of the country and pressures and counter-pressures have a great say in the process of investigations of those investigation agencies.

JUDICIAL ACTIVISM

The recent judicial activism in the investigation of important crimes and scandals of India is not confined to the Supreme Court of India; nor is it limited to the cases investigated by the CBI. High courts and even session courts these days are taking lead from the Supreme Court, as evident from the court proceedings in cases under trial in lower courts like Lakhubhai Pathak cheating case involving an ex-prime minister, antiSikh rioting case of 1984 and recent cases of harbouring notorious mafia leaders involving prominent political leaders wherein the courts have taken tough stands either in summoning top leaders for examination or in refusing bails.

The judicial activism of the Supreme Court on the other hand is not restricted only to the cases investigated by the CBI. In a recent case of investigation of medial seat scandal involving prominent political leaders in a state, the Supreme Court directed that

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the chief of the state CID investigating the case should not be transferred out form the CID without the permission of the court. The Investigation was transferred to the CBI in 1996.

The basic issue is why judiciary should do the legitimate works of the heads of investigation agencies in safeguarding the objectivity of the investigation process. The very fact that there is the need of judicial interference in the legitimate works of

investigation agencies strongly suggests that the investigation agencies are seriously ill. While investigation agencies honestly and professionally discharge their responsibilities towards fair investigations, no judiciary can even afford to cross the sacred halls of their legitimate duties in violation of the sensitivities of the investigation agencies and invite righteous wrath of the public opinion. The investigation agencies and the public are

aware of the extant situation in investigation agencies and therefore the interferences of the judiciary in investigations are not only tolerated, but also welcomed by all sections of the people.

SYMPTOMS OF ATROPHY

The serious maladies witnessed in secret police and investigation agencies of India are actually common symptoms of atrophy observed in all wings of Indian police, including the law and order police. Dishonesty, lack of professional commitment, extraprofessional loyalties and unchecked corruption are the albatross that commonly affect the Indian police at all levels. It is not a rosy picture to have of a police force which is

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more than a century old and is now reaching half a century mark of existence in a free country.

The deterioration of Indian police is steep after independence.

Perhaps,

democratic rule in the country has not done any good to Indian police. The nexus of police with criminals and politicians is smothering and squeezing the country and its public life out of its vitality to a stage of paralysis. While this truth has been realised by people in states like Bihar and UP it is eating up the vitals of the country in other states too. The talk of private armies doing recent elections in UP and Bihar is an indication of the confidence Indian police inspire in public after fifty years of self-rule. Indian police in 1990s appears like a century old giant tree rendered hollow by the termite of corruption. Unless something is done fast to return the vitality of professional pride and commitment, Indian police may irrevocably fail the country in leading it forth to the century-mark of India’s independence.