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Police forces have the authority to exercise force to maintain law and order in a state. However, this power may be misused in several ways. Recently, the CJI observed that Custodial violence and other police atrocities still prevail in our society despite various constitution safeguards.
Further, the police investigation in the February 2020 riots case has come under the scanner of Delhi Trial Courts recently. The court observed serious lapses in police investigations. All these highlights need police reforms.
What is the status of Police in India?
Police come under the state list of schedule 7 of the Indian constitution.
The center is also allowed to maintain its own police forces to assist the states with law and order maintenance. Therefore, it maintains seven central police forces and some other police organizations for specialized tasks. These tasks include investigation, intelligence gathering, research and record-keeping, and training.
Expenditure on police accounts for about 3% of the central and state government budgets.
What are the issues associated with police investigations?
Poor Evidence: In multiple bail orders, judges have cited poor evidence as to their reason for granting bail. For example, in the context of the Delhi High court’s bail for three anti-CAA activists in June, despite they have been charged with the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), the police were not able to produce strong convicting evidence.
Challenges in Crime investigation: Crime investigation requires time and resources, skills, training, forensic capabilities, and infrastructure. Both, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the Law Commission have noted that state police officers often neglect this responsibility because they are understaffed and overburdened with various kinds of tasks.
Inconsistency: The courts noted many inconsistencies in witness statements, which should have been noted by police during their investigation.
Methods of framing charges: In some cases, investigation appeared “inefficient” and “unproductive”. For example, in a riot victim’s gunshot injury complaint, police had clubbed this case with incidents from other localities of some other day.
Increased custodial violence: Apart from the recent CJI remarks, the NCRB data have repeatedly shown police brutality, violation of human rights, and even extreme instances of custodial killings. Although several policemen do get convicted, there are that many who go scot-free — by manipulating records, intimidating complainants, or political patronage.
For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs has reported that 348 custodial deaths and 1,189 cases of torture by the police were reported in the last 3 years alone.
Corruption: In 2016, the vigilance department had conducted 55% more inquiries against its policemen. A Delhi Police survey also found that 34% of the cops to be corrupt in 2015.
What are the challenges associated with the functioning of Police?
Increased political control: The political executive (i.e., ministers) has the power of superintendence and control over the police forces to ensure their accountability. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) has noted that the excessive power in the hands of police has been abused in the past by the political executive. They unduly influence the police personnel to serve personal or political interests.
Understaffed and overburdened: As per the United Nations recommended standard, India should have 222 police per lakh persons. But, the sanctioned police strength was 181 police per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137 police. So, the police force in India is heavily understaffed and overburdened.
Infrastructural Issues: The CAG audits have found shortages in weaponry with state police forces. For example, Rajasthan and West Bengal had shortages of 75% and 71% respectively in required weaponry with the state police.
The Bureau of Police Research and Development has also noted a 30.5% deficiency in stock of required vehicles with the state forces.
On the other hand, funds dedicated to the modernisation of infrastructure are typically not utilised fully. For example, in 2015-16, only 14% of such funds were used by the states. This also made the police force technologically not update.
Low incentive to work: 86% of the state police comprise the constabulary. Constables are typically promoted once during their service. They normally retire as head constables. This weakens the incentive for them to perform well.
Increased psychological pressure: The superiors often verbally abuse the lower ranks of police personnel, or they work in inhuman conditions. This creates a non-harmonious work environment, which ultimately affects the relationship with the public.
What are the recommendations of various committees on police reforms?
How to improve the functioning of police?
The government has to implement the Supreme Court’s directions in the Prakash Singh case and other pending recommendations like separating the investigation and law and order functions of the police, establishing Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, etc.
Bringing the police under the “concurrent list” of the Constitution. This will also help in creating uniform standards in policing.
Proper Modernisation of Police Forces: Even though the Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF) scheme was initiated in 1969-70 and has undergone several revisions, there is a need to fully utilise the finances sanctioned by the government. The funds can be utilised to update the IT infrastructure and provide technology training for police personnel.
Increase Community policing: Community policing will help to improve a sense of security to the public. For example, the Ummeed Initiative of the Delhi government. This has to be implemented at the pan India level.
Gender-sensitive Policing: Police should be made more gender-sensitive. 33% reservation for women in the police should be implemented to achieve that.
Parliamentary discussions and debates: Law-making organ of the state needs to have a consistent and meaningful discussion on the issue of police atrocities within civil society.
Revamping Criminal Justice System: Along with police reforms, there is a need to reform the criminal justice system too. This can be done by implementing the recommendations of the Malimath Committee.