The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative is deeply perturbed by the comments of the Delhi Police Commissioner in which he said, at the police’s annual press conference on 4 December 2016, that Delhi Police personnel would “shoot or hang” perpetrators of crimes against women on the spot, if the Constitution of India allowed this.
While he immediately conceded that the Constitution does not allow this and the police is bound to uphold human rights, it is disturbing that the leadership of one of the largest police forces in the world appears to endorse tactics akin to extrajudicial killings that by-pass due process. Innocence until proven guilty continues to be a cardinal legal principle of our law that clearly demarcates the functions of the police and judiciary. Nowhere is it the function of the police to judge and punish, but only to bring suspects fairly before the courts. The Delhi Police’s own motto “Shanti, Nyay and Seva” meaning Peace, Justice and Service reminds the force of this duty.
We reiterate that 1) The police must provide safety and security to people only by upholding the law, and by no other means, whatever their personal views; 2) The police must remain impartial even if there is a growing tide of public opinion clamouring for mob justice and; 3) Police leadership must at every turn reinforce Constitutional principles in day to day policing.
Rising crimes against women require a strong response. The best way to ensure this is for the leadership to focus their energies on training, resources, and operational guidance towards a lawful and effective police response to crimes against women. Well thought out measures that improve policing on the ground, from unfailing registration of complaints to credible investigation of cases to present before the courts, will do more to bring justice to victims than populist comments that suggest rough justice.