Just the right prize
James Vadackumchery, winner of the 2003 Distinguished Scholar Award for Lifetime Achievement of the American Society of Criminology, speaks about the State Human Rights Commission and Police reforms.
DR. JAMES Vadackumchery named his daughter Neethie because he has been preoccupied with the idea of neethi (justice) all his life.
A criminologist at the Kerala Police Training College, Thiruvananthapuram, since 1976, his quest for a just order continues.
He is the author of 50 books and over 600 articles on crime, criminology and justice.
In recognition, the Division of International Criminology of the American Society of Criminology has given him the 2003Distinguished Scholar Award for Lifetime Achievement. "I'm the first Asian scholar to get this award," says Vadackumchery.
A strong votary of human rights, he believes that the concept of human rights did not begin with the English Magna Carta or the principles of the French Revolution.
"In my book, `United Nations and Indian Mysticism: Parallels on Human Rights', I've contended that the wisdom of the Vedas and Upanishads encapsulates the essence of human rights."
Vadackumchery has reservations about the functioning of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). "The SHRC conducts investigations directly. Instead, a panel of experts from various disciplines and representatives of the media and NGOs, of integrity, could be entrusted with the preliminary investigations." he says.
"Only those with knowledge, expertise and appreciation of human rights issues should be appointed to the judicial and non-judicial posts of the Commission. A person does not qualify to be on the Commission merely by virtue of having occupied a judicial office. Also, the members of the SHRC should be trained at frequent intervals," he suggests.
According to Vadackumchery, the powers of the Commission are adequate. He explains, "The people's mandate that SHRC enjoys is enough for the body to do its job."
On human rights organisations of dubious character, he says, "The Commission has to vet them and, in case of suspicion, enquire, expose and discredit them."
He does not approve of the present practice of the Commission visiting hospitals and jails under media glare. "I feel it lowers the dignity of the office," he says.
About the frequent attempts by the Police to better the rapport with the public, he believes a lot has to be done. He says, "The public is cynical about the Police. Cinema, which portrays policemen as either buffoons or villains resorting to third-degree methods, and the media, can help change this mindset. There has to be a corresponding reform in the Police sub-culture, inherited from the British, and nurtured and maintained for generations."
To correct the image of the Police, he recommends human rights-friendly service and a thrust on not just the legal sanctity of actions, but also their moral dimension. "The first step would be to scrap the archaic Indian Police Act of 1861 and the Kerala Police Act of 1960 and replace it with human rights oriented legislation. Also, the training we give to the Police is what the British used to. It has to be made people-friendly. The philosophy of human rights and democratic values has to be instilled in the trainees," he asserts.
Recommendations by various Commissions on Police reforms, criminal justice and the like have had little impact. Dr. Vaduckumchery blames it on a "clerkocracy", which hinders timely and meaningful implementation of the recommendations, an uninterested bureaucracy, and the lack of political will.
A new measure touted to reform the Police is the division of the force into two, one to investigate crimes and the other to enforce law and order.
"It is meaningless unless it is done from scratch. A bureau of investigation on the lines of the CBI has to be formed. Persons qualified in physical and human sciences should be recruited and trained in specialised duties. Under law and order, persons should be selected on the basis of physical fitness and trained in mob control and the like. Both should be separate entities without any interchange of personnel," he says.
He believes that prosecutors and judges who handle criminal cases too have to be trained in investigation techniques and methodology. Else, he believes, the system will not work.
The nexus between leaders, political and otherwise, bureaucracy, business and gangsters has ceased to shock us anymore.
Terming the crimes committed by this nexus as `suite crimes', Dr. Vaduckumchery says, "The money involved in suite crimes is many times more than the total amount in burglary, theft, pick-pocketing and such crimes. The law and the system can help to detect `slum crimes', but not `suite crimes'."
PRAKASAM K. UNNI
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