Bhubaneswar: The police force which is a key instrument of the state government in maintaining the law- and-order machinery is invariably accused of high-handedness while dealing with persons in custody.
The officers in the department are vested with the authority to help them perform their duties smoothly in the interest of governance. However, infusing fear of punitive action against the officials found guilty of violating basic rights of the hapless citizens is the only effective way to rein in the errant officers.
Consequently, agencies like the Human Rights Commission are at work at the national as well as state level to checkmate atrocities by government officials including the cops.
Police departments in some states have set up their own human rights protection cells to deal with cases related to custodial deaths, assault on weaker people like women, children, Dalits and the elderly.
The Odisha Police, for instance, has set up the Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC) in 1981 which works as a specialized wing of the state police. It acts as a nodal agency of NHRC, OHRC, NCW, SCW, and National Commission for SCs and National Commission for STs.
However, according to available data, such rights cells have become ineffective more or less. Some have deliberately delayed taking action against the cops accused of human rights violation.
According to a recent RTI query, the human rights cell of the state police is yet to conclude investigations into most of the cases related to human rights violation by the officials of Odisha Police (referred to it since 2013).
As per data, HRPC received nine human rights violation cases against officers of Odisha Police for investigation between 2013 and 2018. HRPC received one case each in 2013, 2015 and 2018. Two cases each have been referred to it in 2014, 2016, and 2017.
Of the nine cases received by HRPC, investigation is pending in six cases. In one case, however, the cell allowed the accused, an inspector in-charge and other staff of the Energy police station at Cuttack to get away on the pretext of ‘Mistake of Fact’, a legal term which means the accused has done some wrong mistakenly without any ill-intention.
Charge-sheets have been submitted in two cases between 2013 and 2018 although the cell received nine cases in the last five years.
A sensitive case like the custodial death at Ainthapalli in Sambalpur (2018) angered the locals to set the police station afire. Several police officials also were injured in the incident.
HRPC, however, is yet to conclude its investigation into the death of a 28-year-old youth in police custody June 8, 2015 at Jagannathprasad (Ganjam).
Speaking on the issue, Human Rights activist Pradipta Kumar Nayak said, “The HRPC is a wing of the state police which has been established to save its own officers from getting punished for their ill deeds. The Custodial death incidents in the state have reached an alarming situation in the state and the apathetic approach of the HRPC is adding salt to wound.”