ISLAMABAD, March 11 The Supreme Court observed on Thursday that people approached it because police treated them with such indignity that even the law of the jungle appeared comparatively fair.

“The situation is so alarming that there is no way out for the general public except to approach the Supreme Court,” said Justice Javed Iqbal, head of a three-judge bench that has taken up suo motu notice of reports of police torturing suspects outside the Bhawana police station in Chiniot.

“The rampant police torture, especially in Punjab and Sindh means dishonouring human dignity,” the judge observed.

The court directed the Punjab government to shut down private torture cells being run by police, make drastic changes in police training manuals, maintain strict discipline and hold senior police officers, including inspectors general, accountable.

The court also sought from the Punjab police a comprehensive report containing affidavits from police officers that there were no private torture cells in their areas of jurisdiction.

Taking notice of reports of police torture in Punjab, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had asked home secretaries, inspectors general of police and advocates general of the provinces to come up with comprehensive reports on such incidents.

During the proceedings, Punjab IG Tariq Saleem Dogar accused the media of creating tension between law-abiding citizens and God-fearing police officers. He said that moving outside in uniform had become embarrassing for police because people were “abusing them more than the Indian army”.

“We are moving towards anarchy,” he regretted and requested the court to take notice of the hype created by the media which, he said, should have fizzled out after action had been taken against delinquent officers.

The court told the IG that the main objective behind the exercise was not to demoralise police but to strengthen the department.

The job of police is to maintain law and order and it should itself restore its respect, Justice Tariq Parvez, a member of the bench, observed.

“There is no intention to criticise, but when there is a violation of Article 14 (inviolability of dignity of a man) of the Constitution the Supreme Court being custodian of the law and the Constitution cannot sit silent,” Justice Iqbal said. “Tell your police force not to obey illegal or unconstitutional orders,” he added.

The court asked the IG to issue show-cause notices to DIGs and SPs of areas where incidents of police torture had taken place.

“I am sure crimes will reduce by 50 per cent if police start showing efficiency,” Justice Iqbal said, adding that instead of media reports senior officers should get authentic reports from their own men.

“The Punjab government should create awareness among police officers about fundamental provisions of the Pakistan Procedure Code (PPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and should also consider bringing amendments to the syllabus being taught at the Sihala Police Training Centre,” the judge observed.

The bench said it was perturbed over the level of tolerance in senior officers like inspectors general on such incidents and deplored that torture cells were still being operated in Punjab with impunity. “Why the Punjab government always takes ad hoc steps,” the bench asked. So many senior officers were sitting in the court, but none must have ever raided any police station to check such violations or incidents.

When Advocate General Khawaja Haris informed the court that the Punjab government had prepared a report about action taken against personnel responsible for the torture and recommendations had been made to amend CrPC and PPC, Justice Iqbal said that 'thana culture' would not end by these amendments.

“Ninety-five per cent police officers have no idea about fundamental provisions of CrPC and PPC and they do not even have slightest idea how to lodge FIR. Things will not improve unless political interference is cut by discouraging quotas meant for MNAs and MPAs,” Justice Iqbal said.

Situation would have been different today had recommendations of the Mitha Khan Commission (on police reforms) been implemented, the judge said.

Khawaja Haris said the Punjab government was planning to set up a monitoring committee and had drafted the Police Order 2010.

“It is not a practical measure,” Justice Sair Ali said, adding that the matter had again been sent to the committee and the result would again be nil.

The advocate general admitted that police torture was against the UN Human Rights Convention and Islamic teachings, but said that certain issues being faced by police, like frustration, because of the current situation were the result of such incidents.

“What frustration? You have to leave frustration home when you are wearing uniform,” Justice Iqbal said, adding that although salary of the Punjab police had been increased to bring them on a par with the Motorway police, there was no improvement in efficiency.

Islamabad IG Kaleem Imam informed the bench that police in the federal capital were adopting scientific way of employing forensics and hi-tech gadgets for investigation. When he stressed the need for a paradigm shift, Justice Sair observed that police needed to shift their orientation to service, from power, otherwise the entire system would collapse.

The court also summoned inspectors general of Balochistan and Sindh and adjourned the hearing for three weeks.