By Mr. Prajeish.D
Police serve as the protectors of the society. They are the roots of the executive whose primary job is to protect the society and people and ensure a peaceful living in our country. Police officials are always prone to appreciation and criticism in our country. They have been performing tremendous jobs to ensure the health, safety and peaceful living of each and every individual. However, police brutality still remains to be a hindrance to the reputation of this executive authority. This article discusses about the extent of usage of power which can be used by police authorities in situations of unlawful assembly.
2.THE CONDEMNING INCIDENT
In the month of May, 2018 anti-sterlite protests were at peak in the Thoothukudi District of Tamil Nadu, India. People objected the functioning of the sterlite copper plant due to the various side effects on the health and living of the people of Thoothukudi. The protests turned to be violent that the police authorities had to use force to disperse the crowd immediately in order to ensure public order and prevent any threat to the sovereignty and integrity of India.
However, the amount of force used to disperse the crowd was an open fire upon various individuals resulting in numerous deaths and severe injuries to the protestors. The police officials had used extraordinary force than the necessary force which needs to be used to disperse the crowd. Let’s discuss the legality of shooting orders in context of international and national laws.
India has been a long-term member of the United Nations. The United Nations had been working since World War II to ensure protect the people and ensure peace in the world. The UN has laid down the Basic Principles for the Use of Force and Firearms[i] which states that the use of force in dispersing non-violent unlawful assemblies should be avoided. When such condition is not possible, then minimum force should be used.[ii] In situations of violent unlawful assemblies, firearms should only be sued if less dangerous means are not available and only to the minimum extent necessary.[iii]
4.POSITION UNDER INDIAN LAWS
Section 129 to 131 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973[iv] deals with the ‘maintenance of public order and tranquility’ which talks about the dispersal of assembly by use of civil force, armed forces and their powers. Section 129 authorizes a Magistrate, officer-in-charge of a police station or anyone not below the rank of sub-inspector to command the dispersal of any unlawful assembly and if such assembly fails to do so, the officer can take help from the public or take action against those involved in such assembly. The police can use force to disperse such assembly adhering to the following principles:
i) No force should be used more than necessary.
ii) It should not be used as a punitive measure.
iii) It must cease immediately once the objective has been attained.
Before the using of force, the assembly must be given prior warning stating that force will be used to disperse them. In Spite of such warnings, if the crowd fails to disperse, minimum amount of force like tear gas, lathi charge can be used as is required by the circumstances having firing order as a last resort.
5.USING OF FIREARMS
While all the available options have failed to disperse the crowd, the use of firearms can be taken as the last resort. Principles state that when an order has been received to use firearms, the most threatening part of the crowd should be targeted and the aim should be kept at the legs to avoid serious injuries and casualties. Any injured person should be given immediate first aid and be sent for medical care and attention.
Casualties due to the excessive use of power by the law enforcement officials still occur since there is no strict law to prevent or punish such acts. Further, the right to self defence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the protection against prosecution for acts done under Sections 129 to 131 under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 are loopholes under the Indian laws, which leaves the offenders to walk free from being prosecuted. Therefore, its time to bring up a strict law or guidelines which need to be adhered to disperse unlawful assemblies by the police authorities and prevent the unwanted excessive use of power resulting in brutality, casualties and death of innocent human beings.
[i]AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, USE OF FORCE: GUIDELINES FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE UN BASIC PRINCIPLES ON THE USE OF FORCE AND FIREARMS BY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS (2015). [ii]Id. Section 13. [iii]Id. Section 14. [iv]Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, No. 02, Acts of Parliament, 1974 (India).