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Dharma Raj, a law student in Jaipur, has approached the Rajasthan High Court seeking greater transparency and accountability in the police force. In fact, what Raj is asking for is the effective implementation of a law that was passed by the state government nearly ten years ago.
Raj, a final year law student of Rajasthan University, says that repeated reports of police brutality pushed him to filing the PIL.
“We keep reading about police atrocities, illegal detentions, and custodial deaths. But how can people fight against this? When I did a bit of research, I found out that the law was already in place.”
In 2006, while hearing a PIL on police reforms, the Supreme Court of India directed for the establishment of an independent body to examine complaints against police personnel. A year later, the Rajasthan Police Act of 2007 was enacted, a law that provided for the creation of Police Accountability Committees at both, the state and the district level.
These committees were to examine allegations of “serious misconduct” against police officers. After the enquiry process, the committees would provide their recommendations to the State government.
The statute may have been enacted, but it is in the implementation where the problem lay.
In 2013, members were appointed to the State Police Accountability Committee; however, the committee does not have a designated office. At the district level, the situation is worse – not a single district PAC has been constituted since the law was passed according to Raj’s petition.
In his petition, Raj has sought, amongst other things, for the establishment of district-level PACs, as well as a fully functional state-level PAC, with adequate staff and a place to function out of.
“Where will [the PAC] conduct enquiries? Where can the people write to? Without an office, what is the point of appointing a Chairperson?”
The petition quotes this article from The Hindu, where the first public meeting of the PAC was held in the lawns of a circuit house because the venue was booked for a political meet.
“The chairperson, retired Justice Bhanwaru Khan, and three other members joined on October 4 while an additional Director General of Police is the member secretary. But since then, the committee itself has been pleading its case with the government. It has no office, staff or even necessary infrastructure.
On Monday, a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Anupinder S Grewal J. issued notice in the matter, with Raj appearing as petitioner in person.
While Raj says he did most of the research on his own, he did face some difficulties when it came to the filing process. It was the cooperative court staff that helped him out, and now he is hoping for a positive outcome.
Raj is hopeful that his PIL will spur the government to fulfil its obligations in this “open and shut case”.