Current Public Administration Magazine (September - 2014) - “Police Reforms: Need for People’s Police”

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Police Administration

“Police Reforms: Need for People’s Police”

Indian police are governed by archaic and colonial police laws of 1861. This law was specifically designed to raise a police which would be politically

useful and to suit the needs of our then British masters to tame the Indians. However, with over 65 years of Independence, we have not mustered the courage to free the police force from political clutches, give the citizens a more cordial police whom he can trust and the police a more humane work condition. The continuing rot & collapse in the system need to stop which is only fuelling distrust & civil disorder.

What we urgently need is a police force which would serve the people. We need to revamp our security apparatus, sharpen the intelligence mechanism by better coherence and coordination between various agencies, and more so – making the police more approachable and friendly. We need to reform the system so that the common man do not fear in approaching the police but walk up to him for some help or report some wrong doing and providing intelligence input. It took the brave policemen lay down their lives to save us from the terror attacks on the Parliament on 13/12/2001 and the later attack in Mumbai on 26/11/2008, that we stand up to salute their bravery.

In 1977, Government of India set up a National Police Commission as it felt that “far reaching changes have taken place in the country” since independence but “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, but these were given no more than a cosmetic treatment by the central and state governments.

A strong vested interest had developed in the maintenance of the status quo. The establishment is not willing to give up their stranglehold over the police. And so, the colonial structure continues and the people continue to suffer from an insensitive police force. When the police lose trust of the people, police cannot be effective. Thus the society is the ultimate sufferer.

The police also very often find it convenient to make politicisation as an alibi for their non-performance and even mis-performance.

The battle for reforms is continuing for years, with commission after commission submitting reports and recommendations to governments. It was only after a directive from the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India that the process has ultimately gathered some steam. The Court’s directives sought to achieve functional autonomy for the police and enhanced police accountability.

The Supreme Court had actually drawn the contours for the police reforms, in a landmark judgment on Sept. 22, 2006. The Apex court ordered the setting up of three institutions at the state level with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences, giving it functional autonomy and ensuring its accountability. These institutions are:

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  • State Security Commission which would lay down the broad policies and give directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service oriented functions of the police;

  • Police Establishment Board comprising the Director General of Police and four other senior officers of the Department which shall decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make appropriate recommendations regarding the postings and transfers of officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above to the State Government; and

  • Police Complaints Authority at the district and state levels with a view to inquiring into allegations of serious misconduct by the police personnel.

Besides, the Apex Court ordered that the Director General of Police shall be selected by the state government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the Department who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the UPSC, and that he shall have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years. Police officers on operational duties in the field like the IG Zone, DIG Range, SP i/c District and SHO i/c Police Station would also have a minimum tenure of two years. The Court also ordered the separation of investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
The aforesaid orders were to be implemented by March 31, 2007. Ten states are said to have complied with the directions of the Supreme Court, though on paper only. The remaining states are dragging their feet in the matter. Some states have passed Bills/Acts with a view to circumventing the implementation of Supreme Court’s directions.

The Supreme Court orders, if sincerely implemented, would have far reaching implications. They would change the working philosophy of the police. The Ruler’s Police would be transformed into People’s Police.

The reforms, it needs to be understood, are not for the glory of the police - they are to give better security and protection to the people of the country, uphold their human rights and generally improve governance.

The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), in its 5th Report on Public Order submitted in June 2007, also stressed that the state governments should ensure that “the police performs its task in a professional manner with functional autonomy”.

The challenges which the police have to face are growing in complexity with every passing year. There is the threat of terrorism, both domestic and international. Maoist insurgency poses a grave threat to the internal security of the country. Kashmir continues to be on the boil. Separatist movements in the north-east have yet to be quelled. Organized crime is spreading its tentacles across the country. These threats cannot be dealt with by a force which was raised to deal with simple law and order problems of an imperial government.

We cannot afford to lose time. The police force must be reorganized, revitalised and given the necessary manpower and equipments. It must also undergo behavioural orientation and project itself as a people-friendly force.

Of course there is a lot that needs to be done in recruiting the right type of personnel at all levels of police, and in their training. Then the senior officers should be held responsible for any deviant behaviour on the part of any officer at any level.

How to bring about this change? What should be done to accelerate the pace of reforms? How to ensure that the police give paramount importance to upholding the Rule of Law and the Constitution of the country? What measures need to be taken to transform today’s ‘Rulers’ Police’ into a ‘People’s Police’?

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