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Police reforms in India

Context:

The Union government has filed an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court to amend a 2006 order of the court that is being used by the States to appoint “favorites” as Directors-General of Police.

Introduction:

  • The Home Ministry moved the court earlier this month to seek clarity on the order that ensures a two-year fixed term for the DGPs.
  • Most of the time these appointments are done for political gains as the officer will be obliged to return favours.
  • Some states were misusing the order and appointing officers about to retire, giving them a fixed term of two years, irrespective of the superannuation date.
  • The late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had used the order to appoint Ashok Kumar, an IPS officer of the 1982 batch, as the DGP in November 2014 for a fixed term of two years, though he attained superannuation in June 2015.

What’s the issue?

A 2006 court order ensured a two-year fixed term for the DGPs. The court issued the order for a fixed two-year term for the DGPs after Prakash Singh, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh, filed a petition on police reforms. However, some States are misusing the order and appointing officers about to retire, giving them a fixed term of two years, irrespective of the superannuation date. Most of the time these appointments are done for political gains as the officer will be obliged to return favours. The implementation of the order is not monitored effectively.

Background:

  • The Indian Police Foundation was inaugurated in 2015 to mount pressure on State governments to implement the directions of the Supreme Court on police reforms (Prakash Singh v. Union of India).
  • The court in 2006 had issued seven binding directions to implement those reforms.

Current issues persisting

  • Illegitimate political interference:
    • Police is an exclusive subject under the State List (List II, Schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution).
    • States can legislate any law on the issue of police. However, most of the states follow the archaic Indian Police Act 1861 with a few alterations.
    • Police have become the ‘subjects’ of Parliamentarians and legislators – with a high degree of politicization and allegiance towards ruling party.
    • The Police Act, 1861 vests the superintendence of the police directly in the hands of the state government.
  • Lowest police-to-population ratio:
    • The global average ratio of police-population is 270 to 100,000, where it’s 120 in India.
    • With far less police –ill-equipped and most of them posted to protect the political representatives, people of India are the least secured people on the globe.
  • Corruption:
    • In 2016, the vigilance department had conducted 55% more inquires against its men. A Delhi Police survey found 34% of the cops to be corrupt in 2015, down from 66% in 2014. (reported TOI)
  • Lack of effective accountability mechanisms:
    • Every act of police misbehavior may not essentially be termed as criminal offence and be tried by the courts.
    • Additionally, registering a criminal case against a police officer is a long and unwieldy process.
    • Sections 132 and 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) prevent courts from taking cases of alleged offences in the expulsion of official duty

Concerns due to unproductive police system

  • Police misconduct: The lack of effective accountability mechanisms and periodic review of performance has misplaced the public’s confidence in the police.
  • Lack of proper justice: Due to corruption in the police system, the investigation process goes on for decades. This lets the culprits roam free and even perform more crimes.
  • Lack of faith and trust on the government: The police are the first place of contact for grievance redressal. But when the system fails, the public loses faith in the lawandorder of the state.

Causes of non-implementation of police reforms

Asking the powerful to rid them of power:

  • The main power of any political leader lies with his ability to govern the police. On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court Bench of Justice YK Sabharwal, Justice CK Thakker and Justice PK Balasubramanyam gave the historic judgment, ordering states to implement seven programs in response to a petition filed by former IPS officer Prakash Singh.
  • However, due to certain glitches pointed out by the states, the court let implementation of four provisions be delayed while the other three had to be implemented forthwith.

Political class too strong

  • Unfortunately, the power is divided unevenly in the Indian system. Thus, making the political class way to powerful to shake. Further, the system has been sculpted in such a way that any change in the existing system takes lots of time and resources

Committees constituted for the Police Reform:

  1. Gore committee on police training in 1971-73
  2. National police commission 1977, recommendations related to organisation, structure, corruption, accountability and modernisation of police forces.
  3. Ribeiro committee 1998 was setup on the orders of Supreme Court.
  4. In 2000, the Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms was constituted to study, inter alia, recruitment procedures for the police force, training, duties and responsibilities, police officers’ behaviour, police investigations and prosecution.
  5. Police Act Drafting Committee setup by GoI, headed by Soli Sorabji.

Why is that urgency in implementing Police Reforms?

As India makes rapid advances towards becoming an economic and political superpower, our police cannot continue to remain frozen in the frame of a past era.

  • The avalanche of social and technological changes fuelled by the internet and the new social media are fast changing the nature, intensity and the reach of crime leading to unprecedented lawlessness and frightening dimensions of global terrorism.
  • There is an urgent need to strengthen our Criminal Justice System and our grassroots level policing institutions;
    • to prepare our police to deal with the present and emerging challenges and
    • Strengthen its investigative capabilities and emergency response infrastructure.
  • Traditional and linear devices used in the past towards police reform may not be sufficient.
  • Considering the multiple causes and their complex interdependencies associated with today’s policing issues, there is a realization that these challenges require broader, more collaborative and innovative approaches and would involve a range of coordinated and interrelated responses.
  • It was in this context that the Indian Police Foundation and Institute was established, bringing together the multiple stakeholders to collectively work for reform and modernization of the police. However this could form only part of the solution.

Way ahead:

  • The Police Act, 1861 needs to be substituted with legislation that replicates the democratic nature of India’s polity and the altering times.
  • The Act is fragile in mostly all the parameters that must govern democratic police lawmaking.
  • Investing more in the recruitment procedure
  • The overall functioning of lower-level officers can be boosted by better training, better pay and allowances and by creating a system that rewards initiative and positive action instead of negative behavior.
  • A separate body that administers the corruption charges on police officers:
  • Implementing Lokpal: Much of the problem would not have been if the 2013 Lokpal legislation was put in place. The Lokpal would have the powers to oversee the CBI’s work and would ease the burden of the court.
  • Holding police accountable
  • Improving police infrastructure
  • Independent Complaints Authority: The Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the Supreme Court have observed that there is a need to have an independent complaints authority to inquire into cases of police misconduct

Conclusion

The transformative reforms in the Indian Police is possible through appropriate interventions in skill building and attitudinal training, through reforms that are both bold and practical, and through collective action of all stakeholders to drive a nationwide campaign for change, keeping in mind, the difficult conditions under which our police functions.

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