I am a second class citizen, legally!
When in distress everyone dials 100. But I cannot. This basic minimum privilege, which every citizen takes for granted, is singularly denied to almost 2/3rd of people living in Uttarakhand. And even the courts acknowledge this illegality.
Most readers will find it hard to accept this stark reality. But the fact is that people like me, who stay in the hilly regions of the state of Uttarakhand, do not have access to the regular police system. Almost 65% of the state of Uttarakhand lives under a framework called the Revenue Police System.
In the colonial past, citizens were primarily seen as a source of revenue. To enforce collection, revenue officials were conferred with policing and judicial rights. While the British government introduced regular police in large parts of India, Uttarakhand was left out. The stated reason was low crime rate but the reality was low or no return on investment.
As of today, the entire country comes under the jurisdiction of regular police except for the hilly regions of Uttarakhand. For us, the revenue officials like Patwari, Tehsildar, etc. function as police officials – an anomaly which denies us the rule of law.
Listed below are few scenarios which highlight this discrepancy –
- If one is in distress or witnesses a crime, he/she can call 110 or 112. The calls are recorded and the police have to respond within stipulated timeframe. That is not applicable to us. We have to call the Patwari or higher revenue officials.
- As there is no common number like 100, one needs to know the number of the concerned official to register complaints. Moreover, the option to complaint is not available 24X7.
- Even if the police are aware of a crime, they cannot intervene in areas beyond their jurisdiction. If the cops enter a village and take someone in custody, say a person involved in narcotics, they will end up facing charges of abduction.
- Unlike the police, the Patwari may respond urgently only in case of heinous crimes, though this ‘urgent’ is nowhere close to the response time applicable for regular police.
- When Patwari visits the crime scene, he/she is either alone or accompanied by a home guard. They are simply not equipped to handle even a small group of hooligans.
- As they are not trained in modern policing techniques, the investigations are sloppy resulting in high rate of acquittals.
- A Patwari not only keeps revenue records but also acts as channel for government funds hence the villagers do not want to antagonize him/her, because to which ‘compromise’ gets enforced and corruption fails to get reported.
These scenarios clearly illustrate how bad the system is and how the legal rights of a section of citizenry stands denied. Even the High Court of Uttarakhand took suo moto cognition of this illegality and passed an order to abolish this colonial practice.
Judgment of the High Court of Uttarakhand
The following excerpts are from the judgment delivered on January 12, 2018, by the bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh in Criminal Appeal No. 100 of 2013 (Sundar Lal Versus State of Uttarakhand).
- This Court has come across a number of cases, where the FIR is registered with the Revenue Police and the investigation is carried out by the Patwari and in heinous crimes by the Naib Tehsildar. The practice of matter being registered by the Patwari and investigated by Patwari or Naib Tehsildar is contrary to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Uttarakhand Police Act, 2007.
- This system is known as “Revenue Police System”, in “Revenue Police Areas”. The manner, in which, the Revenue Police System came in existence in large parts of State of Uttarakhand, resulting in unscientific investigation causing a great miscarriage of justice.
- The Revenue Police System may be relevant at the time when crime in hilly areas was low. However, with the passage of time, the crime rate has increased in the State of Uttarakhand as well. We may refer the report of National Crimes Record Bureau, 2016.
- The Revenue Officers including Patwari, Qanungo, Naib Tehsildar, Tehsildar are not trained to be investigating officer in serious criminal matters.
- The Revenue Police is not trained in handling the scene of occurrence, interrogation, computers, voice analysis, fingerprints, track marks, tool marks, firearms, documents, poisons, narcotics, alcohol, explosives, fires, microtraces, hairs, body fluids, DNA profiling, possibilities of death including suicide, accident, homicide, identification of the dead, skeletal remains, sexual offences etc. These can only be undertaken by the police trained on scientific lines.
- They are not familiar with the Cr.P.C., the Evidence Act and other ancillary laws governing the criminal law. Their qualification is only matriculation.
- The Revenue Officers botch-up the investigation resulting in acquittals.
- The people in hilly areas are required to be given protection and service by the regular police.
- The detection of crime and protection by revenue police officers is pathetic.
- It is also strange that in four districts of State of Uttarakhand, the investigation is carried out by regular police by adopting latest techniques but qua rest of the districts, the investigation is still carried out in a very slipshod manner by the Revenue Police.
- There is no intelligible differentia so as to distinguish persons i.e. of hilly areas from the rest of the population living in four districts of the State of Uttarakhand, as far as Right to Life, scientific investigation and speedy trials are concerned.
- The crime must be detected at the earliest and the guilty should be punished with utmost urgency to maintain rule of law. Dividing states into two parts without any justification is against the rule of law. Rule of law is the basic feature of the Constitution.
- Right to Life includes scientific investigation of crime by the duly trained police personnel.
After making the abovementioned observations, the Hon’ble court passed the following order –
However, before parting with the judgment, more than a century old practice of Revenue Police System/Policing in vogue in many parts of the State of Uttarakhand is ordered to be abolished within six months from today, in the meantime, the State Government shall put in place the Regular Police System as prevalent in the entire country.
“The State Government is also directed to open sufficient number of police stations as per Section 2(s) of Cr.P.C. read with Section 7 of the Uttarakhand Police Act, 2007 to strengthen policing by Regular Police within six months from today. “
“The registration of FIRs, investigation and putting up the challan etc. throughout the State of Uttarakhand shall also be done only by the regular police and not by the Patwaris after six months, strictly, as per the provisions of Cr.P.C. “
More than two and a half years have elapsed and we still live under the same old archaic system, in spite of a discrete order from the High Court of Uttarakhand.
Click here to read the full text of the judgment.
A matter of contempt
After the aforementioned order, the Government of Uttarakhand filed a petition in Supreme Court. The matter is with the bench of Justice NV Ramana and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.
I was pretty hopeful that the Hon’ble Supreme Court may not grant any relief as it has already made adverse observations on this matter. The bench of Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Patnaik, in Criminal Appeal No. 1164 of 2005 (Sunder Singh versus State of Uttaranchal) on 16 September, 2010, made the following observations –
“A time has come when the village police system prevalent in the State of Uttaranchal in respect of distant areas would have to be changed and the distant villagers would have to be given the protection and services of the regular police. It is really strange that the four Districts which are in the plains have had advantage of the police system while in the remaining Districts, the distant part of those Districts should be deprived of a police system. Such deprivation undoubtedly results in affecting the law and order situation, the detection of crimes and the protection of the poor villagers. In fact effective policing is the need of the whole society, urban as also rural.”
As the matter is in the Supreme Court and state government has not implemented the High Court order, one was under the impression that the Supreme Court must have granted some relief but I was shocked to discover that the Supreme Court has not granted any relief on the matter. What this means is that as of today, order of the Hon’ble High Court is the law. The state government stands in contempt for non-compliance of the order. Through its actions, the state government is also denying the rule of law and right of life and liberty to its own citizens.
In a modern democracy what can be worse than this?
To understand the legal perspectives on why the Revenue Police system of Uttarakhand is illegal please read – Why is the Revenue Police system of Uttarakhand illegal?