Where to go with a complaint against Police? Count on this triumvirate

CHAT ROOM
Report by: 
LOKNATH PATRA
Port Blair
25 Feb 2018

Police Complaint Authority, A&N Islands is housed in a single storied structure just by the wall of the ITF grounds on VIP road. With a spacious parking lot in front, and a welcoming large door it is not for the faint-hearted to walk into it, as folk who have to cross the threshold may be going into it with a complaint against their protectors (The Police). The trio who head the organisation are its Chairman, Dr. T. V. R. S. Sharma, Members Mr. V. Thyagarajan and Ms. C. S. Usha. All three are highly regarded in their respective fields and anyone who has been victimized by the khaki brigade can count on them to take their grievance to a logical conclusion.

Born out of the 2006 Supreme Court judgment in the (in)famous Prakash Singh case, the Police Compliant Authority, A&N Islands came into operation in 23 October, 2012 and has been a boon to the simple folks of these simply amazing islands. Dr. Sharma retired as Principal Scientist, also acted as Director CARI (now called CIARI) and NRCOP (Indian Institute of Oil Palm Research) and Agro Ecosystem Director heads the triumvirate. Mr. Thyagarajan is a business success story with an impeccable social standing. Ms. Usha has been putting a smile across many a face with her crusading social work for years.

EOI visited PCA headquarters to meet and have a chat with the people at its helm, to understand its hows, ifs and buts. We recognized the place as its front doubles as a parking lot for two-wheelers whenever there is an event at ITF grounds. Walked in gingerly, knocked and entered to meet Dr. Sharma in his room, and were joined by Ms. Usha soon. Mr. Thyagarajan was out of town, but was happy when he was called and informed about the chat.

EOI: What makes this organization, or authority like it is called, so unique, so important to the society.

Dr. Sharma: Unique because, till it came into being, the buck stopped at the Police Station, but now it is not so. Important, because the poor and people who thought they are powerless against the force are those victimized by the powerful from time immemorial, now can fight their battle against injustice meted out to them or their families here, right here!

Ms. Usha: As a social worker, I came across many cases, but did not know where to go. We wrote grievance letters to this authority and that, butit never bore any fruit. It was always a losing battle. But now, it can be addressed here.

EOI: Can anyone, come here and register his or her complaint if any against Police?

Dr. Sharma: Absolutely. They can just walk in or go to our email to us at pca.andaman@gmail.com, pca.anadaman@gov.in or soon to be launched website at https://pca.andaman.gov.in.

Ms. Usha: As it can be intimidating to people, we are striving to reach out to PRIs and planning to educate, especially the uneducated rural populace in distant places, actually where many incidents that ought to have come to us get no attention and the sufferings continue unabated.

EOI: What are the misconducts by the Police that are taken up by you?

Dr. Sharma: Death in custody, grievous hurt, rape or attempt to rape, arrest without due process of law, extortion, land or house grabbing and any serious abuse of authority.

Ms. Usha: However any complaint affecting Women or Tribals can also be taken up by us.

EOI: Where do you hear the cases? I mean physically.

Dr. Sharma: (leads me out of the room to show me large oval table.) This is where both parties, a Consultant-cum –Secretary (appointed by Government, who is not less than an Assistant Secretary presently or retired recently) and us try to bring the case to a logical conclusion, hearing the pleas of both parties.

Ms. Usha: A lot of work and prior information to the concerned police station comes into play before we reach this sanctum sanctorum. (Smiles)

EOI: Have you ever faced resistance from you know…Ummm?

Dr. Sharma: I knew you would raise this question. Look, right from the Prakash Singh case, which faced hurdles and blockages till its final brick and concrete offices started functioning, I think PCA has grown thick skinned to these resistances.

Ms. Usha: That is the reason why people with unblemished track records are chosen to man the authority. Just like the slogan on my son’s T-Shirt, ‘No fear’. That is how we work here. We also are not paid anything for our work, but we are supposed to keep a strict schedule like any employee. We are just doing it to pay back to the society with our experience and knowledge, if any.

EOI: How are you coping with the transition from being a scientist to an arbitrator?

Dr. Sharma: When I was approached, I was stunned as I worked in a different ambience involving research, beakers and test tubes. I soon realised, now that I had retired, I have to venture out of the cocoon and use my scientific temperament for people directly. In science too we work for the people in the long run, but here it is face to face. In both cases the questions have to answered, the challenges have to be overcome.

Ms. Usha: Unlike Doctor, with my years in social work I could relate to the job from day one. (Dr. Sharma bobs his head in jest).

EOI: How many cases have you handled this year?

Dr. Sharma: Very few, around eight cases. That is too less. The information of our existence (PCA) has to go out to people, to every nook and cranny of our islands.

Ms. Usha: Most cases of police victimization do not get reported due to apprehension. We are trying to take our motto far and wide by educating influencers in the society and holding talks at Panchayat levels.

EOI: We thank all three of you and the staff (especially to the one who brought in cookies and tea) that supports youfor the momentous responsibility on your herculean shoulders. May justice prevail!
(I had entered PCA with a tiny hint of apprehension, but returned beaming with confidence singing Marley, ‘Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your right…’)