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Complain about errant cops to state panels soon

India on 02 February 2015
Location : Maharashtra, India | Source : Times of India

MUMBAI: Police complaints authorities will be set up at the state- and district-level as provided for in the Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Act, 2014, in a few days, the Maharashtra government has said. This despite chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who as a legislator had strongly opposed the amendments and promised to revoke the amendments in his vision statement for the state. 

The amendments to the Maharashtra Police Act were passed in a rush by the legislative assembly in June 2014. 

"In case of transfers, the chief minister has already handed over the powers to the police, except in the case of IPS officers. For now, there will be no change in the constitution of the police complaints authority. It will comprise members of the civil society. We have already drawn up a list and it will be announced in a few days," said the chief minister's office. 

NGOs Police Reforms Watch and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which have been campaigning for police reforms, want Fadnavis to honour his commitment to completely revoke the amendments. "There must be an independent selection panel to decide on appointment of the chairperson and members of the state- and district-level authorities. There must be objective criteria and qualifications for member selection. This must be widely advertised to ensure transparency," said Dolphy D'Souza, convenor, Police Reforms Watch. 

D'Souza said as complaints will be made against the police, serving officers should not be members of the authority as it was against the principles of natural justice. "How can they sit in judgment on their own actions? Besides, the Act mandates that members must work full-time. Serving officers will not be able to work full-time with the authority," he said. 

The Act also provides for imprisonment against anyone filing false or frivolous complaints against police personnel. "This itself is a deterrent to file complaints. The section must be deleted,'' said D'Souza. Activists pointed out the Act allows the state to reject the final report of the police complaints authority in exceptional cases. "This erosion of the binding nature of their recommendations weakens their effectiveness as accountability mechanisms," said D'Souza. 

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