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Police accountability takes a hit for government apathy

India on 13 August 2013
Location : Assam, India | Source : Times of India. Image Source: Flickr User Bobulix

The men in uniform in Assam enjoy a dubious freedom. They are rarely brought to book for their misdeeds or inaction, thanks to the dismal condition of Assam State Police Accountability Commission (ASPAC).

The commission, formed by the state government in 2008 and crippled by manpower crunch and poor infrastructure, has failed to check transgressions committed by the state's policemen.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, earlier this year, had said the commission, now based in Guwahati, would have a forum each in upper Assam, north bank of river Brahmaputra and Barak Valley. These forums, he said, would be headed by retired judges.

"Forget the forums. The government is yet to set up district accountability authorities. According to Assam Police Act, 2007, district accountability authorities should have been set up, under the ASPAC, for each district. We have been constantly seeking strong action from the government's side, but it has always delayed the procedure citing lack of retired session judges who will be heading them," said an ASPAC official.

Absence of district accountability authorities makes it hard for people having a grievance against the police to register their complaints.

Any complaint needs to be registered in Guwahati and this means whoever has a grievance must travel to the city to register it. Moreover, lack of office staff at the ASPAC here has led to slower investigations.

In its annual report, the commission mentioned that the Assam Police Act, 2007, too, needs to be amended in order to make the 'general diary' a legal instrument with its transparency at the level of thana or outpost activities.

In 2012, the SPAC here has registered at least 76 complaints against policemen on duty. In 2013, 44 complaints have been registered till June. Even the latest National Crime Records Bureau registered at least 102 incidents of human rights violation by police in Assam.

However, not a single policeman was chargesheeted or convicted.

"Because of the government's apathy towards the commission, law has become a casualty," added the official.

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