ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Institutionalising the Police State

Jammu and Kashmir Police Bill

The Jammu and Kashmir government has cleverly used the Supreme Court's order on revamping police legislation to bring in the J&K Police Bill 2013 that has several arbitrary and draconian provisions. While demanding revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the state government is attempting to bring in a law that gives the police huge powers over citizens without protecting the latter's rights.

The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state government recently released the Jammu and Kashmir Police Bill 2013 (hereinafter Police Bill) ostensibly to comply with a Supreme Court (SC) order that all the states should revamp their policing legislation to achieve greater public service and accountability. The J&K government has used the order as an opportunity to increase control over the public and to push its political agenda on the revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which would be welcome were it not a subterfuge. The bill effectively creates a police state, adopting numerous draconian provisions from emergency legislation, (including AFSPA) rendering extraordinary powers ordinary and any repeal of AFSPA meaningless. Importantly, the J&K government uses the draft bill to all but guarantee public officials, including members of the army, immunity from prosecution for criminal acts and human rights violations, the concern at the heart of the army’s reluctance to see the AFSPA go (“Omar’s Balm for Army on AFSPA”, PTI, 24 November 2011). Rather than achieving accountability, the bill deprives the state’s population of numerous rights, condones police acts done without any sense of proportionality, turns neighbour against neighbour, all the while shielding the police from oversight and accountability.

In 2006, the SC ordered all central and state governments to adopt reforms designed, in the words of the petitioners, “to ensure that the police is made accountable essentially and primarily to the law of the land and the people”1 (Prakash Singh and Ors vs Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) 310 of 1996 (Supreme Court), 22 September 2006).

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