Certain laws 'empower' the police to unleash terror on citizens with impunity
While the police can act against civilians whenever they want, in violation of the law of the land, there are certain laws that grant them immense powers to use them arbitrarily. To put it simply, certain powers and laws encourage the police to unleash terror on citizens with impunity.
For example, Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr PC) empowers the police to arrest a person without an order or warrant, on mere suspicion. As per law, such powers can be exercised only in cases where a police officer is in possession of some evidence indicating the involvement of a person in situations mentioned in Section 54(1) of Cr. PC. But in most of the cases, it is noticed that the police officer arrested a person without collecting any material connecting with commission of the offences.
A police officer tells TNS on conditions of anonymity that the laws are violated mainly for the reason that the seniors who are supposed to take disciplinary actions themselves encourage such acts.
He says that the inclusion of a couple of words or changing of a situation slightly can make a non-cognisable offence into a cognisable one. The root of the problem is the excessive use of police by those in power to target their opponents.
He says there is a big difference between a peaceful assembly and one that is not. A police officer has the power to declare the assemblers as trouble makers and book them under anti-terrorism laws. All he has to do is to mention in the FIR that the assemblers were chanting anti-state slogans and inciting each other to destroy public property.
Hafiz Zahid, an agriculturist from Mian Chanu, tells TNS that many a time the police officials collude with criminals to commit a crime. He says it has happened many a time that they arrest people for involvement in some minor crimes like cattle theft and send them to the lockup. In fact, these people are most of the time planners of bigger crimes like murders, abductions and gang rapess. When the aggrieved nominates them in criminal cases they get relief from courts on the grounds that they were in the lock-up at the time of the committal of the said crimes, Zahid adds. This excuse is called 'plea of alibi' in legal terms.
The registration of FIR is where the police can play the most and use different clauses of the relevant laws to facilitate themselves, says Intezar Mehdi Advocate, a Lahore-based lawyer. For example, if a person has abducted somebody, the FIR can be filed under both Section 365 and Section 365 A of the Pakistan Penal Code. The punishment under the former is 7 years maximum, whereas under the latter one can even get a death sentence.
Mehdi says it is up to the police officer to decide under which clause he is going to register the case.
He says Section 365 of the PPC pertains to kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine the person: "Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person with intent to cause that person to be secretly and wrongfully confined, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine."
Whereas he says Section 365-A of PPC is about kidnapping or abducting for extorting property, valuable security, etc. It says, "Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person for the purpose of extorting from the person kidnapped or abducted, or from any person interested in the person kidnapped or abducted any property, whether movable or immovable, or valuable security, or to compel any person to comply with any other demand, whether in cash or otherwise, for obtaining release of the person kidnapped or abducted, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to forfeiture of property.
This means that by simply mentioning extortion as the purpose of kidnapping a police officer can increase the penalty from a maximum of seven years and fine to death.
The list of laws abused by the police is exhaustive and includes blasphemy, hudood, public obsenity and several other laws. Though these problems exist on a large scare, mere realisation among the police that they are no more subservient to colonial rule but citizens of a sovereign state can improve the situation to a great extent, says Additional IG Punjab Police Fayyaz Ahmed Mir.
Section 54 is a remnant of the British era and must be done away with immediately, he adds.
--Shahzada Irfan Ahmed