The Bombay High Court judge Gautam Patel has recently opined that blockbuster movies like ‘Singham’ set a wrong precedent and send out a dangerous message.
Justice Patel implied that the cinematic imagery of “instant delivery of justice” by a hero cop not only sent a wrong message but also encouraged “impatience” with the due process of law.
Addressing an event organised by the Indian Police Foundation to mark its annual day and Police Reforms Day, Justice Gautam Patel stated, “In movies, police rail against judges who are shown as docile, timid, thickly spectacled and often very badly dressed. They accuse the courts of letting the guilty go. The hero cop delivers justice single-handedly.
Singham movie has especially shown in its climax scene where the entire police force descends on a 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.
He added, “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.”
If this process was abandoned in favour of “shortcuts”, then “we subvert the rule of law,” Justice Patel underlined.
Movie ‘Singham’ that was released in July 2011, is an action film directed by Rohit Shetty. It is a remake of the 2010 Tamil film of the same title and stars Ajay Devgn as a police officer. It is the 1st instalment of Shetty’s cop universe.
Speaking at the event, Justice Patel saluted Prakash Singh, the former UP Director General of Police who filed a PIL in the top Court seeking reforms in the way the police machinery functions.
He noted Singh’s “undaunted and untiring efforts in making police reforms a reality”, which led to the 2006 police reforms judgement.
Justice Patel stated, “Striving for an impartial and independent police force, accountable and answerable only to the rule of law is the struggle.”
However, he also noted that the 2006 judgement was an “opportunity missed” due to its narrow focus”.
Going through this judgement, I come away with a distinct feeling that this was an opportunity missed,” Justice Patel stated while adding, “The focus was perhaps too narrow…only on police reforms…there is a much wider dialogue…a broader conversation that we must have.”
Justice Patel stated, “Police reforms cannot be seen in isolation or in a separate box. There are other significant reforms that are undoubtedly necessary and these relate to not what they ought to do but how to go about it.”
Furthermore, Patel stated that, the image of the police as “bullies, corrupt and unaccountable” is a populist one. When the public thinks that the courts are not doing their job, it celebrates when the police step in.
He said, “This is why when a rape accused is killed in an encounter while allegedly trying to flee, people think it is not just alright but it is celebrated. Justice has been served, they feel, but has it? ”
Consider how deeply pervasive this view is and how strongly it is reflected in our popular culture, most of all in Indian cinema.