New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission has called the Uttar Pradesh police "an organised gang of criminals", quoting a half-century-old Allahabad High Court observation, while hearing charges of wrongful detention, sexual assault, false implication and cover-up against the cops.
"There is not a single lawless group in the whole of the country whose record of crime comes anywhere near the record of that single organised unit which is known as the Indian police force.... The police force in Uttar Pradesh is an organised gang of criminals," the commission said, quoting Justice A.N. Mulla.
It added: "This case is a reminder that this pungent observation made almost 50 years ago is still valid and relevant, at least for the Balrampur police of 2014."
The commission issued a notice asking the Uttar Pradesh government to explain why the victim woman, her husband and her father-in-law should not be paid Rs 5 lakh, Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1.5 lakh, respectively, as relief.
It gave the state chief secretary three months to respond, and asked the official to also report what action had been taken on the matter.
An inquiry by the commission has found that a young couple from Balrampur district had eloped in May 2014 and married in Mumbai. The woman's father lodged a complaint of kidnapping, following which the newlyweds were summoned to the Mathura police post in Balrampur in August that year.
The couple were detained in separate cells at the police post on August 12 and 13, and a sub-inspector allegedly assaulted the woman sexually. When she complained, the police did not act, the commission said.
A city court later dismissed the charges of underage marriage and allowed the woman to live with her husband as she wished.
But the police continued to pursue the case of kidnapping and subsequently added rape charges against the husband, the commission found.
It said the police also falsely implicated the husband's father in the kidnapping case.
It added that when it previously sent a notice to the Balrampur superintendent of police, he had failed to give a proper account of the case or report whether any action had been taken on the woman's FIR alleging sexual assault by a sub-inspector.
The commission referred to observations by the Supreme Court (S. Varadarajan vs State of Madras, 1965) and Allahabad High Court that a woman who was borderline adult could, on a court's discretion, be treated as a major while deciding marital issues.
In the Balrampur case, the commission said, it had found that the woman was 17 years and 9 months on the date of her alleged kidnapping -three months short of the age of majority (and marriage) but within the "age of discretion".
The age of discretion is a notional age at which someone is considered able to handle their own affairs and take responsibility for their actions, and is invoked at a court's discretion on the basis of the facts of the case.
The Balrampur woman can therefore not be described as a victim of inducement, particularly when she says she eloped with the man and married him at her own wish, the commission said.
It said the kidnapping and kidnapping-for-marriage charges should therefore be dropped - a recommendation the trial court is expected to take note of.