HR, consumer activists launch Statewide campaign

Human rights and consumer activists have joined hands to urge the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw the Police Ordinance 2013, because they believe that it is not in conformity with the Supreme Court guidelines, said Henry Tiphagne, executive director of People’s Watch.

“Therefore, a State-wide campaign has been launched under the aegis of People’s Watch to highlight the nature of the ordinance and on how it is not in compliance with the Supreme Court guidelines issued for protecting independence and dignity of the police force,” he said.

On the sidelines of an awareness meeting held in this regard at the Town Hall here on Friday, Mr. Tiphagne told The Hindu , “In form, the ordinance promulgated by the State government looks to be in tune with the apex court guidelines, but in substance and spirit, it vastly differs.

“It is more of an attempt to stay clear of the contempt case (if it does not follow the guidelines) and create an impression that it is on the right side of the law,” Mr. Tiphagne said.

The Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case (former Director-General of the Border Security Force) had given the guidelines to help the police act independently as provided under the law and not just carrying out the diktats of political leaders.

Mr. Tiphagne said that on several counts, the ordinance differed from the guidelines. First, the formation of State Security Commission was envisaged to act as a buffer between the police force and the government.

The Commission should frame the guidelines to improve the efficiency of police and evaluate its function on various criteria such as adherence to human rights standards and its working to public satisfaction.

But, since the commission would be headed by the State Home Minister and Chairmen of various other commissions, such an arrangement would make the Director General of Police just a handmaid of the government.

As such, Mr. Tiphagne said that the Commission would not act as a buffer but function simply as a recommendatory body, thereby diluting its power. Secondly, the guidelines stipulated fixed tenure of two years to the DGP and officers from the rank of Superintendents of Police to the Deputy Inspector Generals of Police.

But, what was obtained now was that the Superintendents of Police who were found to be inconvenient to the government were being shunted, Mr. Tiphagne said.

It was also contemplated that the Police Establishment Board would look into the issues such as transfers, promotion and redress of grievances. But, these powers continued to be vested with the government.

If real reforms are to take place in policing, the investigation wing and law and order wing should act separately. Mixing up duty would whittle down the efficiency of the personnel.

The composition of the District Police Complaints Authorities (formed to look into the issues of police negligence and high-handedness) and the State Police Complaints Authority (to look into custodial rapes and deaths) left much to be desired as these were headed by the Home Secretary and the Collectors, instead of retired Judges, Mr. Tiphagne said.

Oscar Fernandez and K. Krishnaveni of Human Rights Foundation; M. Sekar of Communist Party of India; Vandhiyathevan of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam; Thirumarban of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi; Balki of BSNL Officers’ Association, and M. Nizamudeen, executive director of Consumer Forum Tamil Nadu, participated.