How the Indian police often solves crimes

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

How the Indian police often solves crimes

The recent arrest of 9 Muslim youth, who are past and present members of the Aligarh Muslim University in UP, on charges related to terror-related crimes, raises pertinent questions about how the Indian police often ‘solves’ crimes.

Criminal investigation is a science. If we read the stories of the fictional Sherlock Holmes we see how Holmes solves crimes, by going on the spot, collecting evidence of blood stains, ashes, footprints, etc and by using logical deductions.

Similarly, on YouTube, we see how the police in modern countries solve crimes, by collecting evidence of fingerprints, fibres, bullet casings, semen, blood, ashes, etc and taking them to scientific laboratories where these are analyzed by experts, and by modern methods of interrogation of witnesses and suspects. Fingerprints, DNA etc are fed into a national database to try to get a match.

In India, on the other hand, most policemen are not trained in scientific investigation nor provided with scientific equipment for this, and yet are under pressure from their superiors or politicians to solve the crime, failing which they may be suspended. So what do they do? They often resort to the time tested method of torture of suspects, e.g. using the danda ( stick ). Torture is such a terrible thing that one will accept anything under torture. Joan of Arc admitted to being a witch under torture.

There are often terror related incidents in India, e.g. bomb blasts. There is great pressure on the police to solve such crimes. But since our policemen are usually not trained in scientific investigation nor provided with scientific equipment for this purpose, the real culprits are often never apprehended, and instead innocent persons are arrested and charged, and have to spend long years in jail.

There is an unwritten rule in India to recruit very few Muslims in the police force, and hence the overwhelming number of policemen in India are Hindus. And the perception among many Hindus is that Muslims are fanatics and terrorists.

If in a public meeting a Muslim gives a fiery speech that atrocities are being committed on Muslims, a plainclothes policeman may note his name down, and if a terrorist incident takes place thereafter he may be arrested and charged for the crime, often along with other Muslims, though they may be totally innocent. Thereafter false evidence is often fabricated against him/them. When bail is applied for, it is usually rejected, as the public prosecutor says that the accused is a terrorist. The trial takes years to conclude, as the judicial process is very slow in India, and even if the accused is ultimately found innocent, who will restore 10-20 years of his life which he may have spent in jail ?

There are many other such cases.

I am not commenting on the 9 Muslim youth associated with AMU who have been recently arrested by the UP police ( though a picture has been painted by right wing Hindu organisations that AMU is a hotbed of terrorists, ISIS, Al Qaedi, etc ).

But one can understand the grievance of Muslims in India whose lives have often been largely destroyed on the basis of false charges and fabricated evidence, or the grievances of their kith and kin, and a large number of Muslims generally who believe that Muslims are often falsely accused of crimes they never committed.

The atmosphere of religious polarisation being as it is in India, most Hindus ( who are 80% of India's population ), may not lament over this grim situation. But it may be hoped that one day the communal clouds will clear, and an age of true secularism and equal respect for all religions, which is essential for the country's progress, will dawn in India.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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