Context: Police Commissioner System.

More in news: Recently, the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved the commissionerate system of policing for state capital Lucknow, and Noida.

Police System in India:

  • The primary role of police forces is to uphold and enforce laws, investigate crimes and ensure security for people in the country. 
  • Under the 7th Schedule of the Constitution, ‘Police’ is under the State list, meaning individual states typically legislate and exercise control over this subject. 
  • In the normal police system there is a diarchy. Most of the preventive and regulatory powers are with executive magistrates, but enforcement is carried out by the police.
  • However, at the metropolitan level, many states have replaced the dual system with the commissionerate system as it is supposed to allow for faster decision-making to solve complex urban-centric issues.
  • The colonial administration had created commissioner system in the presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras recognising the unique needs of urban areas. Over a period of time, this system has been found to be most effective in meeting policing requirements of big cities across India.
  • Initially, only four cities had the system namely Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. But by 2016, 53 cities had implemented this system.
    • As per the recommendation of the 1966 Khosla Commission, the police commissioner system was introduced in Delhi from July 1, 1978, when Charan Singh was the home minister.
    • The sixth National Police Commission report, which was released in 1983, recommended the introduction of a police commissionerate system in cities with a population of 5 lakh and above, as well as in places having special conditions.

The Police Commissionerate System:

  • In the commissionerate system, the Commissioner of Police (CP) is the head of a unified police command structure and is responsible for the force in the city, and is accountable to the state government. 
  • The office also has magisterial powers including those related to regulation, control and licensing.
  • The CP is usually drawn from the Deputy Inspector General rank or above, and is assisted by Special/Joint/Additional/Deputy Commissioners.
  • The commissioner system bestows preventive, regulatory and enforcement powers in the office of the police commissioner, who is usually a senior police officer in the rank of ADG/IG assisted by a number of additional commissioners, joint commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners. 
  • Under the commissionerate system, the commissioner does not report to the DM. In Mumbai and Delhi, he reports directly to the government.
  • It gives an integrated command structure. It helps fix responsibility with the Commissioner and eliminates blame game between civil administration and police when something goes wrong.
  • The police commissionerate system is functioning in all the states expect for the Hindi belt regions of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
  • The police commissioners have the powers of executive magistrate or district magistrate for 10 Acts, including the Indian Explosives Act, 1884; Mental Health Act, 1987; Poisons Act, 1919; Police (Incitement of Disaffection Act), 1922, Immoral Traffic (Preventive Act), 1956; Arms Act, 1959; Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960; Sarais Act, 1967; Cinematographer Act, 1952; and the Child Marriage Restrain Act, 1929.
  • It’s a different set-up of policing that deals with the city areas. The crime investigating agency, special investigating units for economic offences, narcotics, gangsters, technical crimes and intelligence and urban crimes are dealt with specialised attention under the commissionerate system.

The advantages of the commissioner system:

  • The responsibility of law and order maintenance is vested in a commissioner and there is complete clarity on chain of command as well as accountability.
  • There is only one single point of responsibility when it comes to law and order, i.e, the commissioner of police.
  • The commissioner of police is directly and totally accountable to the state government for his performance. Thus, the reporting system is clear.
  • The commissioner system provides unified organisational command structure and powers to manage problems created by urban growth such as encroachment, anti-social activities, sudden law and order situations, illicit/ illegal liquor sale, drug peddling, etc.
  • It also creates necessary organisational independence and homogeneity so that the police are able to use their professional understanding to deal with contemporary urban problems like traffic regulation and evolve and innovate according to ground realities.
  • It provides specialisation in training and personnel management and faster and more effective response.

Way forward:

  • In November 2014 the Hon‟ble PM unveiled his vision for SMART Police – police which should be strict and sensitive, modern and mobile, alert and accountable, reliable and responsible, techno-savvy and trained.
  • Broadly, reforms are needed on three fronts:  
    • improvement in capacity and infrastructure of police forces,
    • revisiting the constitution of police forces in the country through legislative/ administrative changes,
    • Technological scaling-up.
  • The Supreme Court of India in Prakash Singh v. Union of India (2006) outlined some other administrative reforms to reform the police system. However, very few states have taken steps to comply with the judgment. In the present times of cooperative federalism, the Centre needs to sit with the states to motivate them to follow the following SC directions:
    • Setting up of State Security Commission laying down broad policies and directions for police functioning
    • Police Establishment Board to decide on transfers, postings, promotions, and other service related issues
    • Police Complaints Authorities at state and district levels as redressal mechanisms for complaints against police
    • Selection of DGP by the state government from panel of three senior-most officers of the Department who have been empaneled by the UPSC for promotion,
    • Fixed tenure of officers on operational duties

Conclusion:

The needs for a fast growing economy like India for safe environment particularly in light of the complex security threats in present times are imminent. Terrorism, Left Wing Extremism, crimes including cyber-crimes, law and order issues threats which call for a strong and efficient police for internal security. A review of the police governance framework, the legal setup, the issues ailing the police force –all call from making police reforms one of the greatest priority for the country.