Chief Justice of India N V Ramana on Friday said people hesitate to approach police in times of despair as its image is tarnished due to corruption, excesses, lack of impartiality and close nexus with the political class.
Ramana, who was delivering the 19th D P Kohli Memorial Lecture organised by the CBI on “Democracy: Role and Responsibilities of Investigative Agencies”, said the need of the hour for the law enforcement machinery is to reclaim social legitimacy and public trust, and the first step to gain these is to break the nexus with the political executive.
“People hesitate to approach the police in times of despair. The image of the institution of police is regrettably tarnished by allegations of corruption, police excesses, lack of impartiality and close nexus with the political class.
“Often, the police officers approach us with the complaint that they are being harassed after the change in the regime. When you try to endear yourselves to the powers, you will have to face the consequences,” Ramana said.
The CJI said that often the best of talents enter this system in expectation of recognition and accolades, but, if the threat of infection looms large, honest and upright officers find it difficult to stand by their oath.
“The truth is, that no matter how deficient and non-cooperative the other institutions may be, if you all stand by your ethic and stand united with integrity, nothing can come in the way of your duty. In fact, this stands true for all institutions. This is where the role of leadership comes into play. The institution is as good, or as bad, as its leadership.
“A few upright officers can bring a revolution within the system. We can either go with the flow or we can be a role model. The choice is ours,” he said.
He pointed out a few issues that are affecting the system including –lack of infrastructure and sufficient manpower, inhuman working conditions, especially at the lowest rung, lack of modern equipment, questionable methods of procuring evidence, officers failing to abide by the rule book and the lack of accountability of erring officers.
Ramana said besides these there are certain issues that lead to delay in trials, including lack of public prosecutors and standing counsel, frequent adjournments, arraying hundreds of witnesses and filing voluminous documents in pending trials, undue imprisonment of undertrials, change in priorities with the change in the political executive, among others.
“These issues often lead to the acquittal of the guilty and incarceration of the innocent. This severely affects the public trust in the system. The courts cannot simply monitor every step. Reform of the police system is long overdue in our country,” he said.