Ethics Case Studies on Internal Security and work of an IPS officer

ForumIAS announcing GS Foundation Program for UPSC CSE 2025-26 from 18th June. Click Here for more information.

As the internal security situation of India is deteriorating, the topic of “Internal Security and Disaster Management” is becoming more important from the view of Civil Service Examination. We can expect ethical case studies from the topic “Internal Security and Disaster Management” as well as the work life of an IPS officer.

Two sample case studies:

  1. A case of fake encounter

There was a gruesome naxalite murder of a landlord on the night of December 12, 1980 in the limits of Police Station X in the district Gadchiroli of Maharashtra State. Very soon, news spread and there was scare in the village and neighbouring villages. The deceased landlord happened to be a close relative of a senior police officer who was occupying a key position in PHQ. The reputation of the deceased in the village was not good.  In fact, he was hated by most of the villagers particularly belonging to working class, as he was known to be exploiting the labourers and manipulating cases to be registered in the Police Station against those who were not amenable to him.  Pressure was brought on the SP of the district by the senior police officer for immediate arrest of the accused. Within about 2 months of his taking charge clues to the identity of the accused could be gathered through sustained collection of intelligence and interrogation of suspects, etc. Very soon one of the main accused was arrested.

On telling this information to the senior officer, the senior officer asked to bump off the accused. He told that the accused is a hardcore naxalite and committed a gruesome murder and should be taught a lesson. But the SP wants to take him on police remand, interrogate him and maybe recover the weapons used in the offence. Moreover his arrest was known to the public in the village and bumping him is not possible according to the SP.

Home Minister also called the SP in this regard. He said, “I heard that the naxalite is arrested. You know that the people of the village were very much scared of the naxalites and you have to restore confidence of the people by teaching a lesson to the naxalites. Our party people will give you full support. Take deterrent action.”

  1. Imagine yourself as the SP. Analyse the case thoroughly, with particular reference to the pressures from various quarters, against which you have to act. Do you think you have an ethical dilemma? What are the factors guiding your decision? What decision will you take? Would you like to become a public hero by killing the hard core naxalite or follow the course of law?

Hint: Naxalite is already arrested. SP can do good investigation and make sure that Naxalite gets appropriate punishment. This will support the rule of law. Accused may have not committed the murder (it will only come out after proper investigation). Fake encounter may provide an opportunity to naxalites to create propaganda around police excesses. Career progression should be done by lawful means. Choose a middle path and write a suitable answer.

  1. Torture or not?

You are ACP of Mumbai city. Your Commissioner gave you an intelligence input that bombs have been planted in various places in the city. Late in the night at 2:00 am, after receiving the information, you went out with your team to search for the terrorists. After putting in to strenuous hard work you raided a house in Mahim area of Mumbai, where you found two people with 2 kg of explosives and IED devices. You immediately arrested them and brought them into the police station.

Now you think that these people must know about where the bombs have been planted. When you asked them about the whereabouts of the bombs and their plans, they directly said that they have no information. In this situation, you have an option of committing torture techniques on them. These torture techniques are said to give results in case of new criminals. You also have another option to do more hard work and search for the bombs in the city. Moreover, using torture and third degree is against human rights law. This torture may also lead to the death of those people.

  1. Analyse the ethical dilemma you are in. What course of action will you take? Can you justify the use of torture techniques? How will you save the city from major bomb attacks? Build an argument for use or not use of torture.

Hint: Arguments in favour of torture:

  • Due to lack of time and requirement of swift action, torture can be justified (Ticking Bomb Theory).
  • It can be used to gain information to save thousands of life.
  • It serves as a medium of reciprocity to terrorism.
  • It is a necessity in the time of terrorism.
  • Terrorists are not regular criminal. They are an enemy of the state. Thus, torture should be legalised against them.

Arguments against Torture:

  • Torture violates the intrinsic dignity of the human being.
  • Torture mistreats the vulnerable and thus violates the demands of public justice.
  • Authorizing any form of torture trusts government too much.
  • Torture erodes the character of the nation that tortures.
  • The ticking bomb theory is based on probability and is unrealistic. Allowing torture will act as a slippery slope and may lead to extra judicial executions.

Legalising torture will provide a license to use torture against every person suspected, without confirmation.

This Article is a part of a series of Articles on Internal Security and Disaster Management by Lohit Matani. You can check his future Articles by visiting this page. The Articles would come every Sunday.

Lohit Matani is an Indian Police Service (IPS) Officer, serving in Maharastra Cadre. He has deep interest in, and specializes in Internal Security & Disaster Management. He is a published author and a blogger. You can reach him on Facebook or on his blog here or buy his book on Internal Secuity by clicking here.
Print Friendly and PDF