Police modernization PIL SILF President unhappy with progress
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Police modernization PIL SILF President unhappy with progress

Bar & Bench

The PIL filed by the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) seeks modernization of the police force and implementation of certain security standards. The PIL specifically traces the history of the Mumbai attacks , the death toll and also makes suggestions to secure our country from external attacks. Bar & Bench spoke to Lalit Bhasin, the President of SILF, about the PIL.

After the 26/11 attacks, the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court, invoking Article 355 of the Constitution reminding the Government its duty to protect the country against external aggression and internal disturbance.

The PIL seeks modernization of the police force and implementation of certain security standards. The PIL specifically traces the history of the Mumbai attacks , the death toll and also makes suggestions to secure our country from external attacks.

Amarchand Mangaldas’ Mumbai based Managing Partner, Cyril Shroff took lead in filing the petition on behalf of SILF and engaged heavy weight Senior Counsels, Iqbal M. Chagla and Janak Dwarkadas.

Bar & Bench spoke to Lalit Bhasin, the President of SILF, about the PIL.

Bar&Bench (B&B): Why does the PIL focus on police modernization despite there being several other reasons like a weak coastline, lack of political will and the laxity of National Security Guard approval during the attacks?

Lalit Bhasin (LB): Inspite of intelligence reports and information that attacks might happen with the police, no action was taken. The local administration, the Chief Minister, the Department of Home Affairs, the police force are all responsible for the failure to prevent the attack.

Several eminent police officers died in the attack because of mistakes like faulty bullet-proof jackets etc. This had to stop and we can use the judiciary to seek directions, however, only in a limited space as the judiciary cannot legislate. Therefore, the PIL focuses on the need of the hour and also looks at long term remedies that may be brought to protect from attacks in the future.

B&B: Going by the publicly available records do not indicate major progress for the last one year. What are the interim short term and long term remedies that you plan to achieve?

LB: There are no short cuts to the process of security and safety. Even the public has to actively participate in working with the government and sharing information. We had suggested a Citizen Co-ordination Committees, that was approved by the High Court headed by Justice Srikrishna.

Along with this we made detailed suggestions like implementation of a Closed Circuit Television Camera in key areas, formulating a Crisis Management Plan, implementing the suggestions formulated by Mckinsey & Co. There is also the Pradhan Committee report that we want to be tabled before the public.

There are reports today that tell us that the threat is a lot more serious today and still our Government still hasn’t sensed urgency in dealing with it. Unfortunately, the Government is still yet to learn the lesson after 26/11. They have constituted an unwieldy committee of about 70 people a while back, which is yet to sit.

B&B: Will this be another post disaster PIL which is soon forgotten by the people. I may be wrong in this, but by analyzing the Court records, I learn that we are still awaiting Chief Secretary’s affidavit to proceed in this matter.

LB: I am not at all happy with the progress of the case. Firstly the Supreme Court said that the Chief Secretary need not file his affidavit, staying the order of the High Court, and there is the Pradhan committee report has still not been made public.

That doesn’t mean we will forget the PIL. We would have withdrawn it if we felt that there was no result coming out of the PIL. We are still fighting it in the High Court and the Supreme Court and will continue to fight.

The SILF president indicated his displeasure and dissatisfaction about the manner in which the Government is conducting the enquiry. The matter is scheduled for hearing on November 30 in the Bombay High Court.

One year on, we are still groping for answers, still waging arguments about what has to be done, politicians still try to capitalize and the police still waiting for their bulletproof vests.

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