IGP's claim an affront to people’s intelligence

Bangladesh on 24 August 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : New Age Bangladesh. Image Source: Flickr User Ashiful Hauque

THE claim by the inspector general of police, made in a report submitted to the High Court in response to a July 28 suo moto order, that he knew of only one incident in which law enforcers were involved in extortion from truck drivers sounds so ludicrous that one may very well wonder whether he takes the honourable judges, and also people at large, for mere fools. According to a report published in New Age on Friday, the top police official in the country stated that ‘acting on a tip-off,’ a deputy inspector general of the Dhaka Range ‘withdrew from their duties a town and traffic inspector and other traffic police personnel for their involvement in extortion while they were deployed at Batiapara Mor of Kashiani in Gopalganj.’ The police chief also claimed that the police headquarters had issued a circular on July 7, asking all deputy inspectors general and all metropolitan police commissioners to take steps against extortion from goods transport, in line with the court’s order, issued in cognisance of a report titled ‘Police extortion adds to goods prices’, which was published in a Bangla daily on July 27. 

Involvement of a section of the law enforcers in extortion and many other crimes is neither unprecedented nor isolated. In fact, over the years people have known, and been forced to live with, this for years now. Moreover, less than a week before the court issued its suo moto order—on July 24 to be precise—the parliamentary standing committee on the home ministry, made up mostly of lawmakers belonging to the Awami League-led ruling alliance, had given the police top brass a dressing down for filing cases against ‘thousands of unnamed people’ immediately after an incident of violence, political or otherwise, so that they can use such cases ‘as a weapon of extortion’. In other words, the parliamentary committee recognised aberration by the police as a trend and not a stray incident. It is worth noting that the top police officials present in the meeting reportedly kept silent in the face of the allegations raised by the committee, thereby lending credence to such allegations.

In such circumstances, the inspector general’s ludicrous claim could be construed as his being inadequately informed or misinformed or completely isolated from people at best and wilful denial at worst. If it is the former, he would be well-advised to call the intelligence wing of the police department into account for either not having the correct information or misleading him. On the other hand, if it is the latter, he stands guilty of misleading the court, which amounts to perjury. On both counts, the AL-led government, especially its home minister, who is the political boss of the police and other law enforcement agencies, needs to institute an independent inquiry into each and every allegation of crime and malpractices against the law enforcers.

Regrettably, however, the incumbents, just as their predecessors, have thus far not been forthcoming to the idea of independent inquiries into allegations of irregularities and malpractices, excesses and atrocities by law enforcers — be they involved in extrajudicial killing or bribery or extortion or what have you. It is unlikely that, so close to end of their tenure, they would have a change of heart. Against such a backdrop, the highest judiciary, which remains the last bastion of hope for people seeking redress and justice, would certainly be expected to issue a rule in this regard and thus force the government’s hand. Furthermore, conscious sections of society need to raise their voice and mobilise public opinion so that effective steps are taken to probe, prosecute and punish errant law enforcers.

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