SC questions Punjab cops on woman's beating

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 11, 2013 17:10 hrs

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central and state governments asking them about steps taken to bring about police reforms and questioned Punjab Police for beating a Dalit woman.

The court also issued notice to former Uttar Pradesh police chief Prakash Singh, on whose petition it issued in 2006 direction for effecting police reforms.

The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Kurien Joseph also asked the Punjab police chief to file an affidavit detailing the action taken against police officials for beating a woman in Tarn Taran near Amritsar March 3.

The court also sought details of the responsibility fixed on senior police officers in the matter. The police chief was given a week's time to file his affidavit.

The judges also sought an affidavit from the senior superintendent of police Tarn Taran on the beating of the woman. The incident was captured on camera.

The court asked Bihar police chief and police commissioner of Patna to explain the rationale for beating women teachers participating in protests seeking a pay hike.

Fixing April 1 as the next date of hearing, the court wondered what had happened to the sensibility of the people who witnessed the beating of the Dalit woman in Tarn Taran, but remained mute spectators.

Referring to the "we the people" in the preamble of the constitution, Justice Singhvi asked: "What is the accountability of the citizens who were standing nearby and around the place (where police was thrashing the women in Tarn Taran)? Where have we come to? Have we lost everything? Have we become a senseless society? Where are our sensitivities?"

The Supreme Court had last week taken suo motu cognisance of the beating by policemen of the Dalit woman in Tarn Taran and of women teachers agitating for higher salary in Patna.

While asking Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati to assist the court, the judges March 6 appointed senior counsel Harish Salve and U.U. Lalit as amicus curiae in the matter.

Describing the woman in Tarn Taran who suffered police lathis as "brave heart", Justice Singhvi mocked at the "judicial inquiry" instituted by the Punjab government.

"If government was sincere it should have taken prompt action within 24 hours," Justice Singhvi said, asking Additional Advocate General of Punjab Ajay Bansal: "was that lady a terrorists that you were beating her on the highway. What was the occasion to beat her?"

"It is happening everyday in different parts of the state," the court told Bansal.

"These cops will be reinstated after three months. They will be declared brave and awarded. This is the story of the last 40 years," Justice Singhvi said as Bansal told the court that guilty policemen were suspended.

Salve submitted a brief note to the court on the incidents in Tarn Taran and Patna.

The senior counsel told the court that people who are behind such police action should be made accountable.

Justice Singhvi said: "He (constable) is a human being. What he gets from morning till night. What type of treatment he gets from his seniors that makes him act in an animal like behaviour."

Vahanvati told the court that "there was no question of justifying what has happened. No body will go to police station. It has a serious implication for the society".

He said there had to be a proportionality in fixing the accountability in the chain of command.

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