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WHERE THEIR LOYALTIES LIE...

THE primary duty of the police is to maintain order which would include enforcing the law and the prevention and detection ofcrime. The police ought to be concerned about the interests ofthe general public, the standard of the law, the

administration of justice and the security parameters that ensure it. Loyalty is the foundation on which the police organisation is built up. Loyalty, would mean steadfast adherence to what is legal and the law as the word `loyalty' originates from the Latin lex and legalis.Policing, as a profession in a democracy, denotes fidelity to the

sovereignty of the people and necessitates upholding the law of the country, keeping up the orderly life of the common man and safeguarding peace and security.

This is where the police differ from private armies. Disaster strikes when the police function as the private armies of the ruling political party or any influential member of society. The police in India have fallen into this quagmire, its vitality and profesionalism pushed to the background.

Loyalty is of two kinds. One is pure and simple fidelity to the master. The other owes its allegiance to certain ideals and principles. This implies allegiance to one's duties, responsibilities, objectives, profession and the chosen path of life.

This commitment raises their loyalty to the status of a mission. The loyalty needed in a profession like that of the police is of elevated nature and it bestows the qualities of nobility and dignity on the organisation. It lifts the police above factional interests and gives them a cosmopolitan vitality. The strength and the trust born out of this superior form of loyalty stand the police force in good stead in its hour of risk and crisis.

It is tragic that the Indian police prefer to trade this characteristic for trivial and ephemeral benefits. The trend has spread like wildfire to ravage the

institution. The genesis lies in the promotion of career prospects and other perks dumb

loyalty brings to individuals. Personal loyalty to political masters takes some people to the top, tempting others to follow suit.

The models created a pattern and the pattern became a part of the system in a setup where individuality and orginality are not sacred. The real threat lies in the possibility of this tendency coming to be accepted as the true character of the police. This may not take long to happen if the present goings on are any indication.

The malady is not limited to a particular state or unit. There can be hope of remedy if there is at least one example of the right model. But none seems to be available. Isolated attempts to tread the right path are seen as deviations from the mainstream. This is the beginning of the atrophy of the Indian police. How far the degeneration has spread is evident from the way some important criminal cases of political significance have been handled. A criminal case warrants professional loyalty in its investigation to bring the culprits to book. The political status of the accused and the fall-out are irrelevant to the process of investigation.

The misconceptions about loyalty with a slant in favour of the political masters and other powerful influence-pedlars have clouded this vital aspect of policing. With the result, the rule of law has suffered and the administration of justice is crippled. The damage already done to the country's public life cannot be repaired until the police are brought back on the rails of loyalty to their profession.

The police, whether it is the Special Protection Group, the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing or the Central Bureau of Investigation, survive the transient political masters and their political groups in power. Their

relevance to the country is more abiding than that of the politicians in power. In the circumstances, the police ought not to be subservient to the political masters

whose future is unpredictable. The police going loyal to transient political interests certainly will damage and debase the system itself.

It is a common practice in some States to change key officers when a new dispensation takes over the rule. A recent example is from Tamil Nadu. And this is not an isolated case. It reflects the attitude of the political leadership towards the

professional loyalties of the police. Public opinion about the professional loyalty of the police is rather low.

Politicians believe that all those in the police are commodities that can be bought and ``loyal'' policemen to make a substantial difference to their political

fortunes. Hence the mad rush to place favourite police officers in key positions. Thus politicians exploit the weakness of the organisation. The culprit here is the perverted loyalties of the police. What is termed as political interference is patently the making of the police by their personal loyalties.

The intelligence unit is the most abused section and its chief is the willing tool. Intelligence officers have

most

a responsibility to their organisational

objectives and they ought to work towards meeting their objectives. But misplaced loyalties restrict the scope of the intelligence units which are seen as the lackeys of the ruling parties and their leaders. The usefulness of the intelligence units as political tools is so pronounced in India that they are brought under the direct control of the Chief Executive of the Government from the traditional Home Department and the chiefs are the main advisers of the Chief Executive, head and shoulders above even the Chief Secretaries in States and the Cabinet Secretary at the Centre.

This importance is a reward for the lengths to which these officers would go risking their personal and career safety and indulge in illegal acts to oblige the political masters. Telephone tapping and shadowing political rivals of the ruling party leaders are only minor prevarications these loyal police officers indulge in to keep themselves in the good books of their political masters.

Assessing

the political trends and suitability of candidates

in different

constituencies during elections and reporting the activities of politicians within and outside the ruling party are now intelligence units. wrongly seen as legitimate functions of the

Mr. Chandra Sekhar, former Prime Minister, in response to a question on the Jain hawala case during the 11th Lok Sabha election campaign, said the

investigation of corruption cases was the job of a Police Inspector and not that of a Minister. That answer would be right in an ideal situation where the police function professionally, with their loyalty fixed to their duties. It has no relevance in a situation where policemen are loyal to individuals or groups in power. The police being the executive edge of the administration, their loyalties make all the difference to the quality of administration.

Factional loyalties have the singular potentiallity of eroding fairness and impartiality. They make professional loyalty seem meaningless. A mature and sober political leadership can set right the fractured loyalties of the police organisation. In this context, judicial activism, in a periodical review of the progress of investigation of some cases of national importance, is a welcome step although in normal

circumstances such a judicial review would have amounted to interference in the independent functioning of the investigating authority.

The duty of providing the right guidance and direction to the police lies with the political leadership. Ironically, the police force has become an object of ridicule by being asked to investigate certain affairs of the politicians with whom its absolute loyalty lies and who twist policemen around their little fingers.