Police Reforms Needed to Ensure Political Neutrality

There is a need to ensure a right balance between the government’s role in appointing or removing the police chief and the need to safeguard the Police’s operational autonomy.

  • Recently, the State government removed Param Bir Singh (Mumbai Police Commissioner) from his post.
  • It brings back the focus on the long-overdue reforms require, in the process of appointing and removing police chiefs.
History of recommendations for police reforms
  • In 1979, National Police Commission (NPC), suggested for an independent body for the appointment and removal of police chiefs. The rationale was to avoid Political intervention and to maintain independence of the police.
  • Further, the Supreme Court (SC) of India in its judgment, in Prakash Singh Case (2006) reaffirmed the NPC suggestions.
  • Further, the Supreme court entrusted the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to shortlist candidates. After that, the State government can appoint the police chief from this list.
  • However, the Model Police Bill, 2015 placed the responsibility of shortlisting candidates on the State Security Commission (SSCs).
    • SSC is a multiparty State Police Board. It consists of government officials, the Leader of the Opposition, independent members from civil society.
What reforms are needed?

First, need to ensure bipartisanship in the appointment of police chiefs. For that, the constitution of the State Security Commission (SSCs) is needed. For instance,

  • Around 26 States and the Union Territories have established SSCs. However, not a single state adheres to the balanced composition suggested by the SC. Some states do not include the Leader of the Opposition, others do not include independent members.
  • Also, in as many as 23 States the governments retain the sole discretion of appointing the police chief.
  • Further, there are concerns over concern over non-functioning SSCs. For example, according to RTI information, only four SSCs have held meetings since 2014.
  • As a result, the commissions still remain dominated by the political executive.

Second, institutionalise an independent and transparent selection process for appointment and removal of police chief based on objective criteria. For instance,

  • The Model Police Act require the SSC to shortlist candidates on some requirements. It includes the length of service, service record, and range of experience, and a performance appraisal of the candidates over the past 10 years.
  • However, the criteria’s used are more subjective rather than objective. For example, what qualifies as a “good” range of experience?
  • Further, there is no scrutiny process to justify removals from tenure posts.
  • This allows for the use of Subjective terms such as “on administrative grounds” or “in the public interest” to justify the removal.
  • This is against the Supreme Court ruling in Senkumar vs Union of India case, 2017.
  • The SC ruled that satisfaction of the government” alone is not a sufficient ground to justify removal from a tenure post in government. Rather, it needs to be based on verifiable material that can be objectively tested.
What needs to be done?
  • First, objective benchmarks need to be integrated into decision-making processes, both on appointments and removals. It will prevent politically motivated actions.
  • Second, learning from UK’s example to improve transparency of the review process. UK’s ‘The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011’, introduced public confirmation hearings as an additional layer of check for the appointment of police chiefs.
  • This provides the police chief an opportunity to respond to the allegations leading to their removal.

Source: The Hindu

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