AP 2020: Many crimes come down, instances of high-handedness leave police embarrassed

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By Surya Desaraju Amaravati, Jan 5 (PTI): Andhra Pradesh saw a dip in many instances of crime in 2020 but the state police faced embarrassement when the DGP was summoned by the High Court more than once and the alleged high-handedness of some men in khaki bringing the department under close scrutiny.

Keeping the Maoist activities under check and a 15 per cent drop in 'cognizable crime' amidst a Covid-19 induced lockdown may have brought some relief to the force but incidents like the death of a Dalit youth at the hands of the police and the tonsuring of the head of another member of the community dented its image.

The AP police never seemed to have had it so bad like in the year 2020.

Director General of Police Damodar Gautam Sawang was summoned to the High Court three times, an unprecedented event.

Incidentally, in one of those hearings he was even made to read out a relevant portion of law in the open court, in a case related to the alleged illegal detention of Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu in Visakhapatnam airport.

The court stringently rebuked the DGP in another instance and remarked that he should resign if he could not control his force.

The High Court observed on more than one occasion that the 'rule of law' was not being implemented in the state, which had also been the opposition parties' refrain.

'We had summoned the DGP to the court (for personal appearance) many times in the past but there appears to be no change,' the court had commented on one occasion, in a case related to illegal detention of some people in a civil dispute.

'Police system in the state seems to be going off the track. He (the DGP) should resign if he can't control the police,' a division bench of the High Court had said.

Alleged police high-handedness in the state during 2020 saw at least ten inspectors and sub-inspectors being suspended and in some instances even arrested.

Be it the tonsuring of a Dalit youth in a police station in Rajamahendravaram, the death of a fellow community member in Prakasam district allegedly at the hands of the police or the gory suicide of a Muslim family of four in Kurnool district in another case of alleged police excess, the force came under lot of criticism.

A 33-year old person, who came to the bazaar to buy medicines for his father in Sattenapalli town died after police allegedly beat him up for violating the lockdown.

In the Guntur police range alone, comprising three districts, 10 inspectors and sub-inspectors were issued 'charge memos' on allegations of highhandedness on the public while enforcing the lockdown.

'There are some aberrations and we feel sorry about it. We are sensitising and counseling our personnel to be polite towards people,' an Inspector General of Police had said in response to the controversies.

The police crackdown on farmers, particularly women, in Amaravati protesting against the government's move to relocate the state capital only earned the High Court's wrath.

In a case related to abusive social media posts and political comments against the judiciary, the High Court castigated the Crime Investigation Department for failing to investigate the case in a fair manner.

However, the DGP had recently said 'big people speak whatever. You don't expect police to react and respond to every such comment. And, there are many instances where we have found that such comments and remarksthere is no accountability associated with that,' and that it was some kind of a 'perception' about the police.

On the crime front, the police claimed an overall 15 per cent reduction in cognizable crimes, 13 per cent decrease in white-collar offences, 12 per cent dip in property offences and 7.5 per cent in crime against women as compared to 2019.

Police data revealed that cases of kidnapping fell by 21 per cent, attempt to murder by 22 per cent, murders by seven per cent and grievous hurt cases by 29 per cent.

Dacoities saw a 33 per cent drop, robberies were down by 29 per cent and murder for gain cases were 39 per cent less than the previous year.

Rape cases were just one per cent less in 2020 than in 2019, as also 'rape by cheating', while cases of outraging the modesty of a woman shot up by 10 per cent.

While the police claimed of achieving a drastic reduction in average days taken to complete investigation in crime against women, from 118 days in 2017 to 53 in 2020, as many as 5,075 cases were still pending investigation over the last four years.

In 2020, 4,085 cases were pending investigation, police data revealed.

Cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act saw a 13 per cent jump, from 1,386 to 1,598.

Fatalities in road accidents saw a 17 per cent drop in 2020 while the percentage of those injured decreased by 30.

Liquor smuggling cases surged by 72 per cent and 'sand theft' cases rose by 56 per cent.

According to Sawang, the CPI (Maoist) activity has been restricted to only Visakhapatnam and during 2020 two incidents of exchange of fire were reported in which one member of the outlawed group was eliminated.

Five underground cadre, including a state committee member, were arrested while ten others surrendered.PTI DBV SA SS PTI PTI