Police Reforms in India


257 victims from dreadful 1993 Bombay blasts, may finally ‘rest in peace’ following the latest conviction of six accused.

But it cannot be said a prompt justice as it has been more then 2 decades since the blasts have taken place.

It proves the inability of the police force of the country to secure all the accused and get those available convicted by the court.

Background of police reforms

The Police Act of 1861 governs most police forces in India. The act was ordained by the British in the aftermath of the Revolt of 1857 or the First War of Independence. The Act continues to be enforced till day in most states of India despite far reaching alterations in governance post-independence. The structure of … Continue reading “Background of police reforms”

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  • The National Crime Records Bureau report says that Indiafaces a shortage of 0.5 million policemen. The current police strength is 1.73 million against the sanctioned strength of 2.24 million.
  • 35,831 cases were registered against the police with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) till 2015-16.


  • The Indian Police Act of 1861 was legislated by the British right after the revolt of 1857 to bring in efficient administration of police in the country and to prevent any future revolts. This continued for many decades even post-independence
  • The National Police Commission (1979-81) felt the need for reform and hence it went on draft a Model Police Act in its Eighth Report submitted in 1981. The proposed bill, however, had failed to be adopted by any state.

Precedents attesting to failures

  • 1993 Bombay bombings:
    • The 1993 Bombay bombings were a series of 12 bomb explosions that took place in Bombay, India on 12 March 1993.Many conspirators managed to escape the trial including the two prime suspects in the case, Ibrahim and Tiger Memon.
    • The inability to bring the architect of the 1993 conspiracy has highlighted the incompetence of our agencies and the state police.
  • The Batla House controversy of 2008:
    • The Batla house incident took place on 19 September 2008, against Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists in Batla House locality in Delhi right after five serial blasts on 13 September 2008 that brought Delhi to its knees.
    • However, many popular political leaders belonging to the left-wing pseudo-secular parties accused the Delhi Police of staging a false shoot-out that hurt the sentiments and reputation of many officers involved.
  • November 2008 Mumbai attacks:
    • The investigations of 26/11 attacks in Mumbai were done in epic magnitude by the Mumbai Police.
    • This only proved the people who blamed the lack of resources and potential among the security forces wrong.

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.

Status of enactment:

  • Many states have constituted State Security Commission but its composition reflects deviation by way of exclusion of either the leader of opposition or the judicial element or both.
  • Most of the States have been sticking to the earlier existing procedure of selection, without even laying down any merit-based, transparent criteria for the same. Also, nothing has been done regarding tenure.
  • Some states have tried to implement directive 4 by passing an executive order. But no concrete steps have been taken to implement that on ground level.
  • Separation of investigation from law and order requires additional police forces. Some states have taken steps to sanction additional forces and promised to implement the fourth directive.
  • The Police Establishment Boards (Directive No. 5) have been created in most of the States but their effectiveness has been questioned by the civil society groups.
  • The Police Complaints Authorities (Directive No. 6) have not been created in most of the States so far. Even in the States which have claimed compliance to this directive, it is yet to be put in place at the ground level.
  • Home ministry of central Government has taken some steps, but more or less they are as ineffective as it is with the situations of other 6 directives.

Causes of non-implementation of police reforms

Asking the powerful to rid themselves 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


  • Fix the loopholes in the police Act:
  • 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 corruptioncharges on police officers:
  • Investigative team that are specifically designed to look into crimes by police officers and one that is  independent from anypolitical influence and cannot be subject to the authority of the state ministers or the very police officers they are investigating thereby allowing them to function without fear of retaliation could be an effective remedial measure.
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