Fixing tort liability is right way to deal with police brutality: Jurists

“Victims or their representatives can file civil suits directly in the High Court”

April 13, 2017 01:29 am | Updated 01:29 am IST - MADURAI

Visuals of an Additional Superintendent of Police slapping a woman, while she was protesting against establishment of a government-run liquor shop, in Tiruppur on Tuesday has evoked widespread anger among people and consequent demands for appropriate action against the officer. However, jurists say that the right way to deal with such brutal incidents is to file civil suits for fixing tortious liability on the officer as well as the State.

According to them, either the victims or their representatives can file civil suits directly in the High Court claiming a huge amount of money as compensation. “The concept of tort liability is not as popular in our country as it is in western countries. There, they file cases seeking a fancy amount of money and even get it ordered. If such things happen here, police officers will think twice before raising their hands,” says Justice K. Chandru, former judge of the Madras High Court.

He also points out that the latest amendment to the Tamil Nadu Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act has substantially reduced the percentage of court fee to be paid by the litigants for filing such cases. “Therefore, people must come forward to utilise the opportunity and sue the officials concerned. Economically poor victims can even seek free legal aid. Lawyers must also begin to think on these lines and advise their clients accordingly,” he suggests.

Concurring with him, advocate G. Prabhu Rajadurai states that fixing a cap on court fees and ensuring speedy disposal of such cases would encourage litigants to resort to civil suits. “When I was practising in Bombay, there was a cap on court fees. Further, women litigants were exempted from payment of court fees. That is why we could see many cases filed there seeking a compensation of even ₹100 crore. Such a situation should be created in Tamil Nadu too,” he says.

The lawyer also points out that it would be very easy to fix the liability on the official in incidents such as the one that occurred in Tiruppur since he had assaulted an unarmed woman who was protesting peacefully for a good cause. “Our policeman are generally trained to quell protests using force but it depends upon individual circumstances. In the Tiruppur incident, there was absolutely no necessity for the police officer to get frustrated to the extent of slapping a woman.

“I can understand if a group of police constables had been let loose on the protesters and they had ended up acting violently. Here, it was an officer in the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police and he should not have lost his cool while dealing with the protesters especially when they were women from middle class families who had come to the streets for an appreciable cause of opposing the proposed establishment of a liquor shop in their locality,” he adds.

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