How do you police the police – a User’s Guide provides some answers

A User Guide on How To Complain Against Maharashtra Police Now Available, Courtesy CHRI

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative(CHRI)has released a recently prepared User Guide on the Maharashtra’s Police Complaints Authorities or PCAs. These authorities were established to inquire into complaints by the public against police personnel, including grievances as to serious misconduct, corruption, and abuse of authority.

The whole issue of a Police Complaints Authority has evolved after decades’ long struggle by rights groups and sections of the police form for police reform. Communalism Combat was at the forefront of this campaign in the 1990s-2000s and for Justice and Peace(CJP) now.

The PCAs were established in Maharashtra in 2014. Theyhave been set up at two levels; there is one at the state level and six at the divisionallevel in Nashik, Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Amravati and Konkan.The PCAs were founded through amendments made to the state Police Act passedthrough the Maharashtra Police (Amendment and Continuance) Act, 2014.
As per the User Guide, PCAs, whether state and divisional, have the following powers:

  1. To conduct inquiries suomotu or through complaints against Police Officers, hear all concerned persons, receive evidence, and giverecommendations to be implemented by the police department and the state government;
  2. To advise the state government to ensure the protection of witnesses, victims and their familieswho face, or may face, threats or harassment for filing a complaint against the police;
  3. To visit any police station, lock-up or other place of detention used by the police (with written authorisationfrom the Chairperson).

PCAs have the power to receive complaints involving death in police custody, grievous hurt under Section 320 of the IPC, rape or attempt to commit rape, arrest or detention without following procedure, corruption, extortion, land or house grabbing and any other serious violation of law or abuse of authority.

Since the primary function of PCAs is to strengthen police accountability, the User Guide notes that the public can push the police to fulfil their role as police accountability bodies by seeking assistance of these PCAs. For this, it is imperative for the people to begin understanding PCA-related mandates and powers.

With this in mind, the CHRIGuide explains and provides information about what PCAs do, how they work, thetypes of complaints you can make to them, the process to make complaints, the rights ofcomplainants and witnesses, and the kind of remedies you can expect from them.

The User Guide answers all potential queries to approaching a PCA, including:

  • Who can file a complaint to the PCA?
  • How do a complaint be filed?
  • What steps will the PCA take after my complaint is filed?
  • How does the PCA conduct an inquiry?
  • How will PCAs conduct hearings?
  • How does a PCA take decisions?
  • Who implements the PCA’s order?
  • How does the PCA maintain transparency?

The User Guide can be accessed here.

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