A new law proposed to replace the archaic police act in Jammu and Kashmir has ragged a controversy. Not only the civil society activists and the champions of police reforms have taken an exception to its various provisions, the state bureaucracy is also up in arms, as the new law takes away crucial law and order control from district magistrates. A senior state official told DNA the new law has put the police ahead of everything, fearing it shall increase perception of
J&K being a “police state”.
Not only the proposed legislation has some comical provisions like making plying of non-motorised vehicle after dusk or washing of a car, cleaning furniture, in a public place or buying any ornament, watch, pen, cycle utensil from any person under the age of 14 years an offence, it has made mandatory for every adult member of public to cooperate and render assistance to a police official. Failing to do so, he/she can be arrested under stringent provisions. It also makes
statutory obligation to provide facilities and amenities in the police station and comforts to police personnel. The section 54 (4) also says no officer above a DGP shall be appointed by the state government.
Breaking any queue, defecating or urinating in a public place, carrying any article in a vehicle which projects more than five feet shall be punishable for a term of six months or with fine.
Despite claims of decline in militancy and infiltration, the new
police law has borrowed provisions from temporary laws like disturbed
area act, armed forces special powers act in an attempt to make them
part of a permanent statute. While giving protection to a police
officer “acting in good faith” from legal proceedings, it says police
officer shall always be on duty. Critics say, it shall make the
prosecution of erring official almost impossible.
They also say, while no distinction has been made between core and
non-core functions of the police, the law empowers police officer to
give directions in respect of the conduct of persons and also allows
him to enter in any public place including private establishment where
members of the public are present. “This provision has taken away all
powers form district magistrate, who used to give character
certificates to the people after obtaining a report from a district
police officer,” confided a state bureaucrat.
But what has sparked more concern is the revival of village defence
committees (VDCs) and special police officers and rewards for
informers. It adds that the “members of such Village Defence
Committees may also be issued suitable arms and ammunition of
prescribed specifications.” More than 25,000 people are currently
working as volunteers with VDCs mostly in Doda, Reasi and Rajouri
districts of Jammu region. The move is also contrary to the Supreme
Court judgement on Salwa Jadum, stating the states cannot arm
civilians and them allow to kill.
Providing sweeping powers to the police at every level and vesting of
absolute authority in the proposed state security commission, the Bill
has provision of a toothless police complaint authority (PCA). As
against Chief Minister and serving members of the government making
the State Security Commission, the PCA is to be headed by a retired
Judge of the high court and retired officers shall be its