Sunday, December 23, 2012



In all democracies, the public has a right to demonstrate in public in a peaceful manner, but it does not have the right to demonstrate where it will, when it will and how it will. The police can impose reasonable restrictions on the right to demonstrate for maintaining law and order.

2.In Washington, there are restrictions on demonstrations in the vicinity of the White House, the Vice-President’s house, the Pentagon and the State Department. Similarly, in London, there are restrictions on demonstrations near 10, Downing Street and the Buckingham Palace.

3. The Delhi Police was justified in imposing restrictions on demonstrations outside the Rashtrapathi Bhawan, the Prime Minister’s residence, the Parliament and the North and South Blocks. Generally, such restrictions are imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC which bans any gathering of more than five persons.

4. Restrictions under Section 144 can be imposed as an anticipatory cum preventive action before trouble breaks out or in order to control a situation after trouble has broken out. The failure of the Delhi Police to impose restrictions under Section 144 near these places before the protesters gathered there enabled the protesters to gather there without violating any law and engage in a confrontation with the police that took an ugly turn. The Police imposed Section 144 only after trouble had broken out and were not able to enforce it effectively.

5. The police had the right and the responsibility to prevent the protesters from forcing their way into the residences and offices located in the high security areas. Not having imposed restrictions under Section 144, the police found themselves with no other option but to use force to prevent the protesters, who had gathered in these areas, from breaking into them.

6. Whatever be the gravity and legitimacy of the grievances of the protesters, they could not have been allowed by the police to go where they want and do what they want. The scenes of clashes between the police and the protesters that one saw indicated a continuing lack of sophistication in dealing with crowds.

7. We still follow, with  some modifications, the riot drill as laid down by the British for dispersing unruly crowds. This riot drill laid down the following steps for dealing with a crowd--- tear-smoke, cane charge, lathi charge, and firing. Use of water was added as the first stage in emulation of the Western countries. There is no lathi charge in Western countries. We continue to use lathis, which can cause severe injuries.

8. Under the riot drill regulations, a police force----whether from the district or armed police--- cannot use force on its own. It can do so only on the orders of a senior magistrate. The do’s and don’ts relating to the use of force lay down, inter alia, as follows:

(a). Use of force should be stopped when the crowd starts running away.

(b). An individual who is running away should not be chased and beaten up.

(c) A person who falls on the ground should not be beaten up.

9.The TV visuals that one saw created an impression that the police was not following any of these dos and don’ts. They were chasing and beating up a fleeing crowd and fleeing individuals and were beating up with lathis even a girl who had fallen on the ground and was helpless. They seemed to be trying to teach a lesson to the protesters .

10. This indicated an ill-trained force not subject to any self-control and self-discipline in dealing with unruly crowds. What one saw was clashes between unruly protesters and equally unruly policemen.

11. There is a need for an urgent review of our riot drill methods and the training of our police force in crowd control to introduce greater sophistication in crowd control. It is time for us to discard the use of lathis, which can cause severe physical injury. Many Western countries have discarded them.

12. It is equally important that senior police officers and magistrates remain present in the scenes of anticipated trouble to exercise leadership and control over the police force.

13. It is also important for our youth to realize that whatever be their anger and outrage, they cannot take the law into their own hands. The police have a duty to perform in maintaining law and order and should be allowed to do so. If everybody---whether protesters or the police---- start behaving and acting as they will, there will be anarchy. ( 24-12-12)


( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail:  .Twitter: @SORBONNE75)



visvamitra said...

Sir, as usual you have put the matters very succinctly. No one can contest the fact that police training and service issues require immediate attention. Yet one cant help but note the fact that most of the time police are blamed as in the case of messenger being shot. Unless most of the legislations are accompanied by drastic judicial reforms, we cannot hope for an improvement in the overall situation

Visible Trade said...
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Visible Trade said...
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Visible Trade said...

"Unruly police" vs "unruly crowds"...

1. Police is a trained force of the state governed and commanded by officers like yourself; carefully selected from 1.25 billion. Here we are referring to probably the best funded police force in the country. If this is the quality of handpicked and highly trained force, what is it that you expect from passion driven youngsters? And why?

2. Why is this happening? Is it only about this rape case? Or is it about rape cases? Is it about the spectacular conviction rate in rape cases? Is it about the general feeling that police force is failing the citizens? Or is about a general feeling that the state cannot be depended on for justice? Is it a rage against this system based on increasing acceptance of crime and violence in everyday life? I remember seeing a similar thing when anti-corruption agitation started. Whatever it is, it is growing. And before things get better, sometimes they need to get much worse.

3.If there was any respect for the police force then would the population be so hostile to it? I am sure you would passionately invoke years of tireless service and sleepless nights of so many police personnel. :) Then why is it that police is still not seen as part of the society which performs an important function and commands respect for its contribution?

4. Who is leading this? Who is causing these opinions to form, these passions to rise? Or is it that for no rhyme or reason just so many people share the wrong idea all at the same time?

Mr. Raman, anarchy is everywhere in our system. It there when one goes to our courts, it is there when one goes to the police, it is there when one drives on our roads, it is there when one wants safe to eat food, it is there when one wants to live peacefully. It is probably more in Delhi than other places but it is everywhere. It is so well accepted that people don't see it as anarchy. What remains is a question of degree. At what point this daily struggle become anarchy? Probably when the individual decides to fight back. :) Its not a fight if one is getting beaten up all the time, is it Mr. Raman?

If the state cannot deliver justice to the society, then maybe the society does not need those rules and institutions, which fail to protect it. And does not need to abide by it.
These are not actions of any organized group or political party. It is a wide cross section of society. Those who are to BE this country, probably as soon as the next morning.

:) Just saying...

No Mist said...

The protests are not just about rape. It is the public anger over misgovernance, misadminitration and mis-policing which is the root cause of so much crime that is driving protests.

our nation has done no improvement over what they inherited from the british.

and there does not seem to be any willingness on the part of political ruling class to improve things. if not desperate protests, what do you suggest Mr Raman ? Whatever you say just remember that it could have been your daughter on the bus and you too would be reduced to this helpless state.

Icarus Invictus said...

I could not agree more with your comments Mr. Visible Trade. You hit the nail right on its head. These protests are not just about rape. This is about organized & Legitimized anarchy which is the system. Nicely written.

Unknown said...

In the recent past near Pune agitating farmers fleeing the chasing police was fired on the back by a police inspector and the dead body dragged to the police jeep. Except a charade of RAGHUL visiting the village no tangible action is taken against the killer