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Time We Made Our Police System More Civilized

Pinki Pramanik

Pinki Pramanik, a woman athlete of fame and achievement, has come out as a free person after spending 26 days in judicial custody. She was arrested on the night of June 13th by West Bengal police on charges of rape. She was held in judicial custody till her release on bail on 10th July. Obviously, the police have utilized the period between her arrest and release for investigation. The all important question that holds the key is Pinki Pramanik's sex, if she is a male as alleged by the complainant or if she a female as claimed by herself and as known to the world till today. We are not concerned with the outcome of the case, she may be a male or she may be a female. Medical investigation and judgment by the courts will decide those questions. It is up to the courts to decide whether Pinki Pramanik has committed rape or not. We are concerned with the response of the law enforcing arm of the state that is Police. It would be useful to refresh our memory that Pinki Pramanik had done India proud. She was a successful athlete winning several medals in international competitions. She bagged three gold medals in 2006 South Asian Games (400 m, 800m and 4x400 m relay). Of many an achievements to be mentioned, she was at her best when she won the gold medal in 2006 Asian Asian Games in 4x400 m relay. All these show that Pinki was a responsible and respected member of society. Then suddenly one day there is a complaint by a woman who was staying (living) with her that Pinki has raped her. Pinky is not a woman but a man! And our police grab the complaint, rush to Pinki, arrest her and then bundle her to an hospital and subject her to medical tests without her consent that too in the thick of night. There afterwards, she is held in judicial custody for days together and subjected to many more tests to determine her sex. To crown it all, a MMS showing Pinki undergoing medical test in nude finds its way to internet and keeps circulating.

Pinki, who brought laurels to the nation
The whole episode raises several disturbing questions. Why should investigating agencies (police) believe the complainant immediately and act in haste showing great urgency? Why did they not pause to consider what Pinki was protesting. No proof is necessary to say that the police were acting with assumptions. Perhaps they were in a hurry to prove that Pinki was a man and had committed rape. The police could have done investigation and carried out the necessary medical tests without causing mental agony to Pinki Pramanik, without humiliating an athlete of international fame. In the FIR, the police have charged her under Sections 376 (rape), 417(impersonation), 325 (assault), and 506 (intimidation) of IPC. Quite a tough net indeed for Pinki to come through. This shows that the police have followed the complainant's charges and swallowed it hook and bait. This is not to say that the police were acting illegal. Police were acting legally. Law gives them ample powers but they have to use this power with discretion. In this case, the police appeared to have made no attempt to listen to Pinki which is unfair. The rough and tough handling of Pinki Pramanik is not an isolated case. This amounts to treating an innocent as a criminal before establishing her or his crime. Hundreds of people are at the receiving end everyday in police stations but which do not find its way to media.
Pinki arrested by police
Why should anyone be arrested at once simply because someone makes a complaint. In fact, the police should make as detailed inquiry as possible and come up with reasonable grounds not just suspicions for arresting a citizen. Because the arrest means someone is being deprived of his or her fundamental liberties. Secondly in the eyes of society, it sticks a stigma which is extremely difficult to wash off. It may be true that after investigation if there is no sufficient evidence, the accused may be allowed to go free. But will the citizen get back his or her dignity and innocence? These questions must be weighed before one is arrested. That is why in most of the democracies in the western world, police do not resort to arrest as a matter of right and necessity. They do arrest a person only when they have convincing reasons to do so. And generally succeed in getting conviction. In India, the culture is vise versa. Therefore, there is a great need for reforming the legal process and make our police system more civilized as elsewhere in democracies in the world.


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