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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 15

A Roving Review of a Police Masterpiece

Saturday 29 March 2008, by V R Krishna Iyer



Political Violence and the Police in India by K.S. Subramanian; Sage Publication India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; pages 257; price: 350.

No civilised society can survive in peace, no citizen can live in haven with happy human rights without an exceedingly pragmatic and well-grounded and executive instrumentality, especially disciplined police personnel with absolute integrity, intelligence, and learning in law, technology and training capable enough to beat the cleverest criminal, rogue, rascal and freebooter. This is my prefatory caution. Now to the excellent book I seek to review.

Dr K.S. Subramanian’s peerless work Political Violence and the Police in India is a scholarly, courageous contribution to police literature, a rare treasure and an experiment with principles in professional functionalism. Since my age, eyesight and ill-health are against me, the task of reviewing the book is a baffling exercise. Reader, show compassion and overlook the shortcomings in this brief appreciation of an admirable work.

A Semi-Professional, Semi-Juridical obiter

IT is my conviction that criminal investigation, maintenance of law and order, the conduct of forensic prosecutions and fearless, flawless and technologically fine-tuned expert intelligence out-manoeuvring the cleverest indigenous and foreign agents and specially trained terrorists desiderate a large measure of independence for police officers in planning and operating crime detection and state security. Intelligence and autonomy are as integral to effective policing as a professional value as those of a judge deciding a grave crime or case. If police investigation is not straight and sharp but arbitrary or influenced by political, communal or other oblique considerations, the court is helpless, however capable the judge be. These days large-scale corruption and political pressure do not spare the police. Third degree methods and other delinquent processes, unprincipled Ministers’ commands and suspicious manipulation of evidence for shaping adjudications are a slur on criminal proceedings. Independent investigation and unpolluted intelligence are fundamental functional freedoms of the police. This does not mean that police violations of human rights, motivated procurement of evidence and other deviances from natural justice by the police will go unchecked or unpunished. Independence goes with accountability.

Who ill police the police? His conscience, valid policies which are legally laid down by the Constitution and the Supreme Court and the impregnable probity designed to facilitate the search for truth. Other credible instrumentalities may be also set up. No threats, political pressures or secret instructions shall interfere with the peace-keeping process, investigative impartiality and detection devices. Subramanian is a paradigm and model in policing rectitude and intelligence gathering. But unbending integrity and refusal to surrender strategies to improper commands are costly values of character. You have to pay a price in your career for such principles beyond purchase. In our politically dubious, corruptly greedy system, straightforwardness is a casualty. In Shavian cynicism, it is dangerous to be too good. I have no idea of Subramanian’s career encounters but I do know how his character is inflexible. Fair against temptation, fair where justice demands it, he is a splendid echelon, unmindful of the pleasure of bosses and penalties of steel-sharp probity. His revelations on the Kerala Cabinet’s dismissal in 1959 is remarkably daring information for me. Had the Central Bureau’s honesty in uniform been stern, EMS would not have been an unjust casualty of the misuse of Article 356 Emergency power.

Subramanian’s book a superlative ‘must’ fo lawyers, judges and police cadres. I would say that it is a real experience to page through this knowledgeable work which presents analyses of the history and functioning of the Central police force, including the Central Intelligence Bureau and the invisible problems faced by the police forces. The academic scholarship with which the author has explained state sponsored violence and political violence and how they affect the Human Rights of the Indian society and state power is laudable. As the book deals with vivid details of the functioning of the Central and State police forces and para-military forces together with case histories, I consider that this book will be very much useful for students of criminal justice, political science, sociology as also to administrative officers and human rights activists.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Dr K.S. Subramanian for his classic work on the police forces. One learned, luminous book is worth thousand erudite lectures and college classes. Never retire from writing powerfully and tirelessly. The writing is its own great reward.

The reviewer, who was the Law Minister in the first Communist Government in Kerala (1957-59), is a former Judge (now retired) of the Supreme Court of India.

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