While the portrayal of a police officer as a "angry young man" battling an allegedly corrupt system and nexus of politicians makes for good box office success, Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court said on Friday that the cinematic portrayal of a "hero cop" dispensing swift justice without regard for the rule of law, as shown in blockbuster films like "Singham," sends out a very harmful message.
Justice Patel was speaking at a function organised by the Indian Police Foundation to mark its annual day and Police Reforms Day.
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.
In the Prakash Singh (former DG of Uttar Pradesh Police) case, there were allegations of lobbying by several IPS officers in Maharashtra and of ‘power brokers’ deciding on postings in cahoots with the government. Prakash Singh who had served as DGP of UP Police and Assam Police, besides other postings. had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court post-retirement, in 1996, seeking police reforms. Justice Patel said when going through the top court's 2006 judgment on police reforms in the Prakash Singh case, he comes away "with a distinct feeling that this was an opportunity missed".
"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," Justice Patel 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.
Justice Patel advised patience and against falling for shortcuts that subvert the rule of law. Especially the kind that films such as Singham (Lion) preach.
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. Bajirao Singham is a police sub-inspector who hails from the small town of Shivgad in Maharashtra and as the protagonist of the cop-universe films of Rohit Shetty, fights against corruption with the valor of lion (Singham).
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