Image of ‘Singham’ cop delivering instant justice sends out dangerous message: Bombay HC judge

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court Justice Gautam Patel said here on Friday that the cinematic image of a “hero cop” delivering quick justice without bothering about the due process of law, as shown in blockbuster films like “Singham”, sends out a very harmful message.

Speaking at a function organized by the Indian Police Foundation to mark its annual day and Police Reforms Day, he also questioned people’s “impatience” with the process of law.

Talking about police reforms, the judge said that the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Prakash Singh case was an “opportunity missed”, and also noted that the law enforcement machinery can not be reformed unless we reform ourselves.

The image of police as “bullies, corrupt and unaccountable” is a populist one and the same can be said about anyone in public life including judges, politicians, and journalists, he said.

When the public thinks that the courts are not doing their job, it celebrates when the police step in, the judge said.

“This is why when a rape accused is killed in an encounter while allegedly trying to flee, people think it is not just alright but it is celebrated. Justice has been served, they feel, but has it?” he said.

This view is deeply pervasive and reflected strongly in our popular culture, especially in Indian cinema, Justice Patel noted.

“In movies, police rail against judges who are shown as docile, timid, thickly-spectacled, and often very badly dressed. They accuse courts of letting the guilty go. The hero cop delivers justice single-handedly,” he said.

“Singham movie has especially shown in its climax scene where the entire police force descends on the politician played by Prakash Raj…and shows that justice has now been served. But I ask, has it,” Justice Patel said, adding that we should think “how dangerous that message is.”

“Why this impatience? It has to go through a process where we decide innocence or guilt. These processes are slow…they have to be…because of the cardinal principle that the liberty of an individual is not to be confiscated,” he added.

If this process was abandoned in favor of “shortcuts”, then “we subvert the rule of law,” Justice Patel said.

Singham (2011), an action film directed by Rohit Shetty, is a remake of the 2010 Tamil film of the same title and stars Ajay Devgn in the lead role as a police officer.

Earlier, talking about police reforms, Justice Patel said that when going through the apex court’s 2006 judgment on police reforms in the Prakash Singh case, he came away “with a distinct feeling that this was an opportunity missed”.

“….The focus was perhaps too narrow…only on police reforms…there is a much wider dialogue…a broader conversation that we must have,” he said.

Police reforms cannot be seen in isolation and there are other significant reforms that are necessary, Justice Patel said.

He salutes Prakash Singh the former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police who had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking reforms in the way the police machinery functions for his undaunted and untiring efforts in making police reforms a reality, the judge added.

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