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Apprehensions rife over move to confer magisterial power on cops

The formation of commissionerates translates into handing over magisterial powers to the city commissioners, who will be an officer of the IG level. 

Published: 05th March 2019 01:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th March 2019 02:30 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government’s proposed move to form police commissionerates in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi cities has triggered apprehensions as to whether it will give more teeth to the already-powerful police department, culminating in misuse of power by the men in uniform. The announcement of commissionerates is expected this week. 

The formation of commissionerates translates into handing over magisterial powers to the city commissioners, who will be an officer of the IG level. 

That means the commissioners will be fully responsible for the law and order maintenance under his/her jurisdiction. Hitherto, the district collectors were monitoring the law and order situation and had a say in police actions like declaring prohibitory orders, giving shooting orders or passing preventive detention orders. 

The government faced protest from the IAS lobby while considering the proposal to form commissionerates.

Chance of misuse 

Former Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson said the protest against the decision should not be viewed through the IPS vs IAS angle alone. “The clash of egos of the two should not overshadow the reality,” Jiji said.
Jiji said IAS officers would be better off declining the orders of the political bosses, something the IPS officers won’t be able to do. “The magisterial power should remain with those officers who can think and act independently. The uniformed officers are regimental. Very rarely can they say no to their political bosses.

“They already enjoy power, and if their power is enhanced without any check, the decision will have a negative impact on the society. There is a strong chance of human rights being trampled upon if the magisterial power is also bestowed upon them,” Jiji said.

Human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal said whenever the police get excess power, they tend to abuse it on the public. So there should be a clear mechanism to keep the police under check so that they don’t misuse their might.

No unrestrained power 
“The police officers at times are being taken to task by the district collectors, who are also the District Magistrates, when they take wrong moves. The presence of IAS officers helps reduce the aggression of cops. Now, if the magisterial powers are conferred upon them, the cops will no longer need to convince the collectors or any other civil officers about their plans and actions, which gives them unrestrained power to leverage,” Jomon said.

Meanwhile, a very senior cop told Express a section of IAS officers were trying to portray that the commissioners will be getting all the powers of an executive magistrate, which is wrong.
“They will only acquire the powers that is required for carrying out their jobs. At critical junctures, the police need to act fast, and for that unity of command is required,” the officer said. The post of executive magistrate was created by the British, and such a historical anomaly will be rectified by forming commissionerates, he said.   

“The idea behind the decision is to give full power of law and order to the police officers. In fact, several National Police Commissions have observed that formation of commissionerates was ideal. 
“The police machinery has got mechanism to deal with incidents of abuse by the cops. So there is no need to panic over the decision. Commissionerates are the need of our times,” the officer added.

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