A progressive, modern India needs a progressive, modern police. It is tragic that we are still saddled with the colonial police structure, which the British raised in India. There were several state commissions in the wake of independence to reorganise and restructure the police. In 1977, the Centre appointed a National Police Commission (NPC) as it felt that “far reaching changes have taken place in the country” and “there has been no comprehensive review at the national level of the police system after independence despite radical changes in the political, social and economic situation in the country”. The NPC submitted eight detailed reports between 1979 and 1981, which contained comprehensive recommendations covering the entire gamut of police working. Its recommendations, however, received no more than cosmetic treatment at the hands of the government.
The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgment on 22 September, 2006, gave comprehensive directions on police reforms. Seven directions were given, out of which six were for the state governments and one for the central government. The directions were:
i) State Security Commission
To be constituted in every state to ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the state police, and for laying down broad policy guidelines. States were to adopt one of the three models recommended by the NHRC, Ribeiro Committee, and Sorabjee Committee. Members were to be chosen in a manner that it functions independently of government control.
ii) Selection and Minimum Tenure of DGP
Director General of Police of the state to be selected by the state government from amongst the three senior-most officers, who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the UPSC on the basis of their length of service, good record, and range of experience for heading the police force; once selected, she shall have a minimum tenure of at least two years, irrespective of her date of superannuation.
iii) Minimum Tenure of IG Police and Other Officers
All police officers on operational duties like IG i/c Zone, DIG i/c Range, SP i/c District and SHO should have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years.
iv) Separation of Investigation
The investigating police shall be separated from the law and order police in towns/urban areas with a population of ten lakh or more to start with, and gradually extended to smaller towns/urban areas.
v) Police Establishment Board
Such a Board comprising DGP and four other senior officers should be constituted to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy SP. The Board shall make appropriate recommendations to the state government regarding the postings and transfers of officers of and above the rank of SP. It will function as a forum for appeal and review the functioning of police.
vi) Police Complaints Authority
Police Complaints Authorities shall be set up at the state level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of SP and above and, at the district level, to look into complaints against officers of and up to the rank of Dy. SP. These will be headed by retired judges and shall look into complaints of serious misconduct by police personnel.
vii) National Security Commission
The Central Government shall set up a National Security Commission to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of Central Police Organisations, and also review measures to upgrade the effectiveness of these forces, improve the service conditions of its personnel, ensure that there is proper coordination between them and that the forces are generally utilized for the purposes they were raised.
THE aforesaid directions were to be complied with by the Central Government, State Governments and the Union Territories on or before 31 December, 2006. The time-limit was extended till 31 March, 2007. Review petitions filed by the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh were dismissed on 23 August, 2007.
Still, the states dilly-dallied in the implementation of the directions. Even where the mandated institutions – the State Security Commission, Police Establishment Board, and the Complaints Authorities – were set up, their composition was subverted, charter diluted and powers curtailed. There is arbitrariness in the appointment of DGP with several states not consulting the UPSC in the empanelment of officers. Police officers on operational assignments are shunted out for all kinds of administrative reasons before the completion of two years. There is tardiness in the separation of investigative, and law and order functions.
IN its August 2010 report, the Justice Thomas Committee, which was appointed by the Supreme Court to monitor the implementation of its directions, expressed “dismay over the total indifference to the issue of reforms in the functioning of Police being exhibited by the States”.
The Supreme Court directions are not for the glory of the police, but to give better security and protection to the people, uphold their human rights, and generally improve governance.
Justice JS Verma Committee, which was constituted in the wake of the brutal gang rape in Delhi on 16 December, 2012, submitted a report on the Amendments to Criminal Law. It urged “all states to fully comply with all six Supreme Court directives in order to tackle systemic problems in policing which exist today”. It further made the following observations: “We believe that if the Supreme Court’s directions in Prakash Singh are implemented, there will be a crucial modernisation of the police to be service oriented for the citizenry in a manner which is efficient, scientific, and consistent with human dignity.”
What is at stake is not only the vitality and credibility of the police but the survival of the democratic structure and the success of economic reforms. The legislatures and the Parliament have been infiltrated with criminals. The nexus between the politicians and criminals is undermining the authority of the State. People who should be behind the bars are protected by the country’s police. A system which permits such an aberration is inherently faulty and has got to be changed. Mechanisms must be devised to safeguard the police from becoming a tool in the hands of unscrupulous politicians or oblige it to protect criminals.
The economic growth of the country requires comprehensive improvement in the law and order situation. Investments would not be forthcoming if returns are not guaranteed. Financial irregularities are common. Money is laundered in a big way. Criminals are able to spread their operations beyond the national boundaries and move with much greater ease and frequency. All this would need effective action, preventive as well as detective, by the law enforcement agencies. Police in its present form is not able to meet the challenges of the developing situation.
- States which have passed executive orders have diluted the directions of the Supreme Court.
- The following 17 states have passed their own Police Acts:Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamilnadu, Tripura and Uttarakhand. They have passed these laws essentially to circumvent the implementation of Court’s directions. The Acts violate the letter and spirit of Court’s directions.
- Government of India has not shown sincerity in implementing the apex court’s directions. A Model Police Act, drafted by Soli Sorabjee in 2006, is yet to legislated for the Union Territories.
THE Supreme Court directions, it needs to be highlighted, are not for the glory of the police, but to give better security and protection to the people, uphold their human rights, and generally improve governance. If sincerely implemented, they would have far reaching implications and change the working philosophy of the police. The Ruler’s Police would be transformed into People’s Police.
The writer is Chairman, Indian Police Foundation, and continues to campaign for police reforms.