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Goa archdiocese flays proposed police law

Bill in its present form has several defects, says Church official

Goa archdiocese flays proposed police law
Helmeted police in Goa maintain a vigil following a communal riot (File photo)
Bosco D’Souza Eremita, Panaji

January 27, 2011

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The Goa diocesan Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) has criticized the draft of a police law, which it says undermines civil liberties. “The provisions in the bill for police accountability appear to be a facile attempt to bow down to the dictates of the Supreme Court,” said Father Maverick Fernandes, CSJP executive secretary. The Supreme Court had in 2006 directed the federal and all state governments to implement six directives which would kick start police reforms and ensure that police accountability is enhanced. While implementing the directives of the court, the Goa government simultaneously drafted a new police law to replace the existing 1861 Police Act. The Goa Police Bill was introduced in the state assembly in August 2008 and the House referred it to a select committee. “The bill in its present form has several defects and undermines civil liberties, gives additional power to the police without ensuring the requisite accountability," Father Fernandes said in a statement. The priest said that despite several requests to the select committee for people’s participation while drafting the bill, it failed to hold public debates and consultations or invite public submissions on the matter. Father Fernandes said that the state government implemented the court’s directives but in a “highly watered down fashion.” The bill discards the directives of the Supreme Court, one of which says that the police complaints committee be chaired by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or High Court with names proposed by the Chief Justice. “It indicates that police functioning will not improve and will continue to remain a force that imposes law instead of becoming a service that upholds the law," he added. The priests said “communities are the beneficiaries of good policing and victims of bad policing (and hence) reiterate our demand to encourage the participation of the community in the process of enacting laws." Related reports Police on watch after Goa church break-in Goa police guard archbishop’s house ID13057.1638
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