Relevance: Police reforms are necessary to ensure a just criminal justice system.
Several state governments have passed Police Acts that are against the Supreme Court verdict on police reforms, and Centre too, has failed to legislate a model Act. Thus, there is a need to focus on the idea of one nation, one police.
- The Government of India has been talking of “One Nation, One Ration Card”, “One Nation, One Registry”, “One Nation, One Gas Grid”, and even “One Nation, One Election”. These ideas are laudable and would contribute to an integrated scheme in different facilities and networks across the country.
- However, in Police related matters, we are confronted with a situation where states are legislating different Police Acts. Eighteen states have already passed Police Acts.
Need for One Nation, One Police:
- First, many states have passed their respective acts to give legislative cover to the existing arrangement. This has allowed them to circumvent the implementation of judicial directions on police reforms given in the Prakash Singh case, 2006.
- Second, the archaic police structure continues is not able to meet the democratic aspirations of the people. In recent times, we saw the unseemly spectacle of the Mumbai police. The police commissioner accused the state home minister of using the police as an instrument for extortion.
- In West Bengal, the police have been a mute spectator to the state ruling party’s attack on those who voted against their party. The Centre, through a fiat, gave protection to all the MLAs of its party.
- Third, a greater uniformity was observed in colonial times for better policing. The Police Act legislated in 1861 applied to almost the whole of India.
- The attempt at uniformity, however, should consider local factors and special features. As long as the regional characteristics are retained and recognised, the same system in its broad outlines would be welcomed by states.
- The central government is also delaying enacting a law based on the Model Police Act 2006. It could at least legislate for the UTs and then persuade the states to pass similar legislation where its party is in power. This way, we can achieve some uniformity in 10 to 12 states.
- Enacting a similar law in the other states could be incentivised by linking their passage with the modernisation grants made available to the states.
- Until this happens, the best option would be for the central and state governments to respect each other’s turf in a spirit of cooperative federalism.