The police force is far from efficient, it is defective in training and organization, it is inadequately supervised, it is generally regarded as corrupt and oppressive, and it has utterly failed to secure the confidence and cordial cooperation of the people’
– A.H.L.Fraser, Chairman of the Second Police Commission(1902)
Not much has changed in the area of Police reforms since 1902. The Police Act of 1861 still guides and governs our police system. The colonial mindset of the police, the trust deficit between police and masses continues even today.
So far we have seen a lot of clamour around police reforms and the result has been either bad reforms or no reforms. India is prone to various threats from both inside and outside its geopolitical borders. Even after a spate of terrorist attacks on our major cities, a series of mega-scams, and a threat from Maoists, the political class is not willing to loosen its grip on the police.
The efforts to beef up security apparatus, strengthen the intelligence gathering ability, bring about coherence and coordination between different police and security agencies, modernizing the police force, enabling our cities with infrastructure to deter terrorist attacks, and most importantly making police people-friendly; all these necessities have been met with lackadaisical attitude of political authorities and are mired in red-tapism.
Police reforms a state subject:
Police is an exclusive subject under the State List ( List II, Schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution). States can enact any law on the subject of police. But most of the states are still following the colonial and archaic Indian Police Act of 1861 with a few modifications.
The need for police reforms:
1. The security of the society and the welfare of the people is dependent on the efficiency of the police.To continue security and growth with our high economic growth, the maintenance of law and order plays a vital role.
2. Each MLA seeks Circle Inspector and Sub Inspectors of his choice to be posted in his constituency. The caste, allegiance, amount of bribes, attitude towards people of the MLA’s community, and ‘flexibility’ are the characters that determine to post to a policeman. At the state level, senior Police officers are promoted to serve the ‘needs’ of the ruling party. Politicians require police to go ‘slow’ in certain cases, to thwart the investigation, to ‘deal’ with political opponents, and to ‘handle’ underworld businesses.
3. The past decade has witnessed a steep rise in crime statistics in India. As per the data of the NCRB, crimes under the Indian Penal Code have shot up from 18,78,293 to 29,49,400, a drastic increase of 63% and crimes under the Special and Local Laws have gone up from 32,24,167 to 43,76,699, an increase of 73%. The escalation of the crimes speaks for itself on the state of the criminal justice system in the country of which the police is an essential part.
3. To instil the confidence of the people in the institution of police by making police more people friendly.It is here
that the Beat Constable system becomes relevant. Under this system, the beat constables have a close association with the community making it easy to get information and also observe any suspicious activities or behaviour. In the past, a close link between the police and the community in this system helped in prevention and investigation.
4. To prevent the highhandedness of police in the form of fake encounters, custodial deaths.
5. By international standards — there should be at least 200 policemen per 1,00,000 persons. Presently, the figure stands at 182 on paper — and 138 on the ground. Incompetent and adequate police force often leads states to doorsteps of centre asking for the help of CAPFs and Army. CAPFs too are in dire need of reforms.
Commissions, Committees, Reports and Dustbin:
Starting from the second Police Commission in 1902 headed by A.H.L. Fraser, many commissions and committees have been formed to look into reforming the police in India.
Notable among them are Gore Committee on Police Training, the National Police Commission, The Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms, The Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms, Prakash Singh Vs Union of India-SC directives for Police Reforms and Soli Sorabjee Committee.
Courting the Court:
The 22 September 2006 Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh vs Union of India case gave a landmark judgement in the fight for police reforms in India.
In 2006 the SC gave 7 binding directions to the states and Union Territories. The court ordered the states and UTs to implement the directions immediately either through legislation or executive order. The states and union territories were directed to comply with seven binding directives that would be the beginning of a new era in police reform.
1) To Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:
1. Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
2. Lay down broad policy guideline.
3. Evaluate the performance of the state police.
2) To ensure that the DGP is appointed through the merit-based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
3) To ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided with a minimum tenure of two years.
4)To Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
5)To Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
6) To set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct,
including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
7) Setting up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection of Chiefs of the Central Police Organizations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.
After this, 14 states have passed legislation only to circumvent the directives not to implement them. Till today, the government has not shown its commitment to follow the directives of the court.
“Police reforms are going on and on. Nobody listens to our orders.” – Supreme
Unfortunately, even the directions of SC have not been implemented by the states. It is sad that the highest court of the land is so helpless in the matter.
Civil society can play a proactive role in pressurising the governments to take necessary reforms. Police reforms are need of the hour to ensure better serviceability to common citizens.