Police not to use Disrespectful Words to Citizens

No to use disrespectful words

Use of disrespectful words like “Eda”, “Edi” and “Nee” to address citizens is impermissible, the High Court of Kerala says in an order issued on 3rd September 2021 in Anil J S v State of Kerala by Justice Devan Ramachandran.

Eda or ‘edi’ is a colloquial manner of addressing one another. It is used among friends and foes equally with changes in modulation depending upon the situation. Eda or edi is considered disrespectful when addressing an elderly person or unknown person.

In the petition J S Anil alleged that during a routine traffic check to enforce Covid protocol, a sub-inspector of police verbally abused his minor daughter calling her “edi.” He said the behaviour of the police officer was uncivilised and improper.

A 2018 circular failed to stop such behaviour

In an earlier judgement in Siddique Babu v State of Kerala (2018 (5) KHC 576) the High Court ordered the State Police Chief to make sure that all officers fall in line with the requirements in circulars regarding police behaviour to citizens so that no citizen will feel fear in approaching an Officer for assistance and this nation can finally be rid forever of the colonially cemented apprehension of Police being persecutors and tormentors, rather than being their friend in need, as the Police Force is now perceived in various other countries.

The judgement holds that a Police officer is always expected to act fairly and professionally and to remain within the limits of decency and not to breach it even under extreme provocation. The Police force is a professional Force and every civilized nation requires its Police Department to act with equanimity even in the face of extreme vexation, instigation or stress.

Then the police chief issued a detailed circular to all police stations to respect public and avoid such terms but still derogatory terms are in force. The Circular No.C3/174267/2018/PHQ dated 30.11.2018, reminds all officials working in the Police Department are legally bound to speak to all decently. The circular has been brought to the notice of all the officers, and the Controlling Authorities have been directed to give due attention and additional training to the members of the Force for this purpose. But nothing much has happened in the field.

A citizen has difficulty to prove police abuse

The judgement says often it is difficult, if not impossible, for a citizen to prove that a Police Officer has addressed him/her in a derogatory manner, or has dealt with them with an abusive tenor, because such imputations are investigated by the police authorities themselves.

Police should not use such terms

The High Court in its order in Anil J S case says that the law-enforcement agencies can’t use such terms.

It declared that such use by any member of the force is contrary to the constitutional morality and conscience of our country and is against the ethos of the democratic system.

The court says the use of derogatory words is an anathema to a civilised and cultured force and are the relic of the colonial subjugatory tactics.

A fresh circular is in force now

The Director-General of Police, as directed by Justice Devan Ramachandran, issued a circular on 10th September 2021 instructing his subordinates not to use such disrespectful or demeaning words while dealing with the public.

Special Branch to report Police’s misbehaviour

No unparliamentary words should be used during any interaction with the public, the Circular adds. The circular also says that the District Special Branch will closely observe the behaviour of police with the public and impolite behaviour warrants immediate action by the concerned unit head of the police.

The court reminds now that the senior officers to enforce decent public behaviour for police officers so as to avert frequent complaints and said such cases will invite contempt provisions in the future.

Additional reading

  1. Anil J S v State of Kerala delivered on 3rd September 2021
  2. Siddique Babu v State of Kerala (2018 (5) KHC 576)