Analyzing the Pseudo-supremacy of the Custodial Powers
The contemporary state of current social media is quite worrying; while George Floyd’s death took a toll on the nerves of the city of Minneapolis and the protest spread like a forest fire, an incident on the same lines was seen as an unfortunate death of P Jayaraj and his son J Benicks.
The George Floyd Case
The Minneapolis Police officers arrested a 46-year-old black man named Gorge Floyd because the employee of a convenience store had called and informed them that he had bought cigarettes with a 20-dollar bill which was believed to be counterfeit. A few minutes after the officers arrived, the man was found unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers and was showing no movement. The slogan ‘black lives matter’ has taken over the internet today and the media is trying to bring about a change in the way the black community is treated in society. This incident brought to stake the issues of an evident abuse of the sovereign power spearheading the rights of right to life and of being treated equally and has violated the fundamental rights. A day after the incident, Derick Chauvin, J Alexander, and Thomas Lane, the officers responsible for the same were dismissed and the authorizes announced it as third-degree murder and also second-degree manslaughter against Derek Chauvin. A few days later the prosecutors had added more charges to the accused. The accused tried to defend himself by saying that Floyd wasn’t pinned down for too long. At the same time, it was said by the legal authorities that it makes no difference and the bottom line. It was also contended that it is the duration of suffocation or such a brutal act that ultimately led to Floyd’s death. Through this, it can be seen how the treatment of the police officers against the Afro-American was a direct human right violation.
The Jayaraj & Benicks' Case
This event happened in Thoothukudi, a district in the state of Tamil Nadu. The father(Jayaraj) was picked up by the police and the son (Benicks) knowing this went to the police station to enquire about the same. The two were brutally harassed and assaulted by the officers at the station and they were found dead in a government hospital in the same state three days later. The reason behind the arrest was that the shop was open after curfew hours on 19th June when the state had imposed a lockdown amidst the current pandemic situation.
This issue, just like the George Floyd case, has attracted a lot of media attention and caused protests all over the country. The question about the issue was whether the use of sovereign power vested in the police against a person in custody should be analyzed in such cases. The policemen are supposed to be upholders of law but in this case, even though they are supposed to protect the citizens they have used their power which cost the life of the citizens. It seems that they haven’t acted lawfully and they are acting contrary to their duties. Here, Section 176 of the Indian Penal Code should be looked upon as provision is absent for which an officer could not be arrested for custodial death. If a common man commits murder, they are arrested immediately but in the case of a police officer, they get the privilege and hence treated differently. This privilege entitled to such police officers is quite arbitrary.
Custodial deaths are not uncommon in India. A meticulous autopsy is becoming an essential part of the situation. Through these two cases, it can be observed that there is a difference between a citizen and an officer. The officers cannot use their power arbitrarily, and them being the upholders of the righteousness, they are not expected to misuse those powers granted to them. In both cases, only a suspension was given to the police officers and it is high time that the government woke up such an issue, like the third-degree torture leading to a custodial death.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arya Kumar is currently pursuing law at School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be University).
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Edited by: Swathi Ashok Nair
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