Thu. Oct 18th, 2018

Police Reforms in India

The Oxford dictionary defines police as an official organization whose job is to make people obey the law and to prevent and solve crime.[1] The police is a social institution which is a responsibility of the State. The State came into existence to provide peace and security to the individual. To fulfil this purpose, the State created an administrative system, the police being an important part of it. In order to develop one’s personality which is a pre-requisite for the development of a country, a free, a peaceful and orderly atmosphere is required. The police is the main agency of the government which is responsible for providing such an atmosphere. The ideal purpose of the police in a community can be best described in the following words which spell out the duties of law enforcement officers as laid down in the International Code of Enforcement Ethics:

“As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and peaceful against violence and disorder; and to respect Constitution rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.”

Functions And Problems Of The Police:
Police is generally defined as the civil force responsible for maintaining public order. It caters to the three core needs of the society- (1) Protection and Preservation; (2) Integration and Unity; and (3) Development and Progress.[2] The traditional and the most important function of the police is to protect the society by preventing crime. The police have the responsibility to realize the aims and objectives of the Constitution by enforcing the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country and by ensuring the freedom and equality of all. However, with the various economic, social and political changes and developments in the society, the requirements of the society are changing too. And with this, the priorities, duties and functions of the police have changed as well. Earlier, the police acted as a coercive force which prevented and detected crime. But, the burden of the police has increased now. The police has now an even more important function to perform- to maintain law and order. They have to make arrangements during festivals, VIP visits, etc. They have to enforce preventive laws for the protection of the weaker sections of the society. They have to maintain civic moral during times of war, insurgency, epidemics and disasters. Also, the police have to ensure internal security by preventing riots, gang-wars, strikes, etc. The police tries to perform all these functions sincerely.

Yet, despite all its efforts, the police is not appreciated by the people. Instead, no opportunity is left to criticize and accuse the whole police department for the misconduct of a frustrated individual of the department. The police is expected to observe highest standards of conduct and show an exemplary behaviour since they are a disciplinary agency. In spite of this lack of sympathy on part of the public, lack of appreciation, the public expects the police to safeguard its security and protect its life and property. What the public does not understand is that the police officials are human beings too, and are thus vulnerable to weaknesses and commit mistakes. There are many reasons for this kind of behaviour. Low salaries, improper housing facilities, lack of facilities to the police officials, non-feasible working conditions and exploitation by political leaders frustrate the police officials. And to add to that, the whole police organisation is highly criticised by the public and the media due to the misconduct of a few officials. All this frustrates the police officials and causes them to misbehave and misconduct. Not only does the public accuse the police to be corrupt, brutal and untrustworthy, even the judges and lawyers in the courts do so.

“It is unfortunate that the animosity and apathetic attitude towards police by the public has been continuing since British period. They consider police the symbol of Government and the only obstacle to the realization of the wishes of the people. So they divert all their anger and dissatisfaction against the police organization and always try to maintain a distance. But still police performs his thankless duties like a true friend in need, in times of grave danger to life and property of the public. He stakes his own life, for the society at the cost of his own family. Name a problem and you will probably find that somewhere in the country there is a policeman assigned to help solve it. In the last few decades insurgency, terrorism and communal riots have made the job more difficult for a policeman. The police are thrown directly into the middle of the maelstrom and are called on to handle explosive situations. While they are striving to restore order they are assaulted and killed. The all-India list of policemen killed on duty is becoming so large that it becomes difficult to read it at the annual police commemoration parade because people start getting restless….. Even a judge has the audacity to address them as the biggest organized gang of criminals.” [3]

Thus to sum up, the various difficulties faced by the Indian police are- odd and long working hours, insufficient staff, absence of technical aids, political interference, frequent transfers and finally, lack of co-operation and constant criticism by the media, lawyers, judges and the public. Let us now discuss a few of these problems.

An obsolescent and outdated-organizational system is a very serious problem of the police. The police organization is still governed by the Indian Police Act, 1861, which has now become obsolete and outdated making the police organization the same. The British had passed this Act as a consequence of the Revolt of 1857 in order to uphold their interests and to suppress any further revolts. This Act continues to control and govern the police organization and it continues to be the same without little or no changes even after so many years of the Indian independence. Along with this, even the existing laws and procedures vis-a-vis the Criminal Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code and the Evidence Act continue to be the basis of the norms and procedures followed by the police.

Another problem is the Political Interference. Political interference in the working of the police is growing day-by-day. Political interference starts right from the recruitment of the police officials. There is political interference in the matters of transfers, promotions, postings and appointments. The politicians pressurise the senior police officials to work according to their whims and fancies like releasing convicted criminals on parole to help them participate in elections. The senior officials in turn pressurise their subordinates to do the same. If the wishes of the politicians are not fulfilled, it is the policemen who are suspended, transferred or humiliated. Thus, to avoid such incidents, the policemen adopt any means and measures-whether right or wrong, to follow the orders of the politicians. This leads to the misconduct among the policemen and hence the criticism by the media and the public.

When the achievements and the good work done by them are not appreciated, the thought that comes to their mind is whatever good they do is not appreciated, then why should they be honest and sincere, and thus, the corruption rate among the police increases leading to more criticism.

Police Reforms:
After reading all the above problems and limitations of the Indian Police, one may come to the conclusion that there is a dire need for reforms in the existing police system in the country. There have been many attempts to reform the Indian police system both on a State level and on a central level. Since 1971 there have been six major reform committees. 1) Gore committee; 2) National Police Commission (NPC); 3) Riberio Committee on Police Reforms; 4) Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms; 5) Group of Ministers on National Security; 6) Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System. However the reform proposals have mostly dealt with the symptoms of the crisis rather than with the problems sourced from its structure and design. After independence the need for police reforms was important and many states set up their own police commissions. The first state police commission was set up in 1959 in Kerala. Most of the States had the Police Act of 1861 as a model when drafting the state acts, hence the same idea and structure is found in the State police Acts.

Gore Committee on Police Training 1971 – 1973[4]
The Gore Committee on Police Training was set up to review the training of the state police from constabulary level to IPS level. The committee made 186 recommendations, 45 of those were related to police reforms. The recommendation that relates to the police training has mostly been implemented however the reforms relating to the structure of the police system has on the other hand been overlooked.

Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms 1998
The Ribeiro Committee was set up in 1998 on the order of the Supreme Court following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on police reforms. The committee proposed five major recommendations related to state security, selection of DGP and complaints against the police, the recommendations have not been implemented.

Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms 2000
Former Union Home Secretary Shri K. Padmanabhaiah was appointed chairman of the Padmanabhaiah commission in 2000 by the Home Ministry of Affairs. The commission inspected the recruitment to the police force, training, duties and responsibilities, police officers behaviour, police investigations, prosecution, amongst others. The committee suggested 99 actionable recommendations, of which 54 need to be implemented by the central government and 69 needs to be implemented by the state governments.

Group of Ministers on National Security 2000 – 2001[5]
The Group of Ministers on National Security was worked on four tasks namely a) the intelligence system b) internal security c) border management and d) the management of defence. 62 recommendations were made, 54 needs action taken by the central government and 42 by the state governments.

Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System 2001 – 2003
The Malimath Committee addressed the principles of the Criminal Justice System, investigation, prosecution, judiciary, crime and punishment. The report has been heavily criticised by human rights organisation for its suggestion of changing the burden of proof.39 The committee made 158 observations and recommendations. There are 55 major recommendations of which 42 have to be implemented by the central government and 26 by the state governments.

National Police Commission (NPC) 1977 – 1981
The National Police Commission (NPC) was the first commission to exhaustively review the Indian police system. NPC wrote eight reports in four years. The eight reports suggested all together 291 recommendations all related to police reforms. Most of the recommendations have not been implemented.

The First Report addresses the constabulary and administrative issues such as pay-structure, housing, redressal of grievances, career planning for constabulary etc. 28 recommendations were suggested but the most important recommendations still need to be implemented in the states.

The Second Report deals with welfare measures for police families and how to avoid political and executive pressure on the police force. The recommendations propose a new police act to reclassify police duties and responsibilities, postings and tenures of Chiefs of Police, constitution of state security commissions, protection against subjective transfers/suspensions. 33 recommendations were made in the second report, where both the central government and the state governments need to take action.

The Third Report focuses on the police force and weaker sections of the society, village police, corruption in the police, economic offences and modernization. Some of the 54 recommendations are related to postings of Station House Officers /Superintendent of Police, how to combat corrupt police officers as well as guidelines for making arrests. Most of the recommendations have not been implemented.

The Fourth Report concentrates on the issues of investigation, trial and prosecution, industrial /agrarian issues, social legislation and prohibition. The suggestions deal with registration of the First Information Report (FIR), recording of statements of witnesses, arrest, remand and confession, amongst others. recommendations were suggested, most of them have not been implemented and many of them need amendments of laws.

The Fifth Report attends to issues like recruitment of constables and sub-inspectors, training of police personnel, district police and magistracy, women police and police public relations. 27 recommendations were made in this report. The commission has once again raised the demand for a new police act.

The Sixth Report takes up the issues of the IPS, police and students, communal riots and urban policing. 23 recommendations were made, some of them dealing with creation of IPS cadres for central police organisations, compulsory training for promotions for IPS officers.

The Seventh Report focuses on the organisation and structure of the police, state armed police battalions and district armed reserves, delegation of financial powers to police officers, traffic regulation, performance appraisal of police personnel, disciplinary control, role of the centre in planning, evaluation and coordination and policing in the North-East of India. 60 recommendations were made, some of them related to restructuring of police stations, separating crime investigation from law and order.

The Eight Report addresses the subject of accountability for police performance. This report suggests amongst other 7 major recommendations such as complaints against the police should be defended at governments cost, it also contains a draft bill of a new police act.

Thus, it can be concluded that the recommendations of the various committees have been almost ignored and have not been implemented.

When the recommendations of the National Police Commission were not implemented, a petition by Prakash Singh and others (Prakash Singh & Others v. Union of India), was filed before the honourable Supreme Court in 1996, praying for the issuance of directions to the Government of India to frame a new Police Act based on the model drafted by the NPC. On 22nd September, 2005, the Supreme Court of India delivered its historic judgment instructing the Central and the State Governments to comply with a set of seven directives that laid down practical mechanism to start reforms of police. The seven directives are:

1. Constitute a State Security mechanism– This is to ensure that the State Government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the State Police and for laying down the broad policy guidelines so that the State police always act according to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country.

2. Selection and Minimum Tenure of the Director General of Police– The DGP of the State shall be selected by the State Government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the department who have been compelled for promotion to that rank by the UPSC on the basis of their length of their service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force. And, once he has been selected for the job, he should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuating.

3. Minimum Tenure of the Inspector General of Police and Other Officers– Police officers on operational duties in the fields like the IG of Police in-charge zone, the Deputy IG of Police in-charge range, the Superintendent of Police in-charge district and Station House Officer in-charge of a police station shall also have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years unless it is found necessary to remove them prematurely.

4. Separation of investigation– The investigating police shall be separated from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people. It must, however, be ensured that there is full coordination between the two wings. The separation, to start with, may be effected in towns/urban areas, which have a population of ten lakhs or more, and gradually extended to smaller towns also.

5. Police Establishment Board– There shall be a Police Establishment Board in each state which shall decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Board shall comprise of the Director General of Police and four other senior officers of the Department.

6. Police Complaints Authority– There shall be a Police Complaints Authority at the district level to look into complaints against police officers of and up to the rank of the DSP. Similarly, there should be another Police Complaints Authority at the state level to look into the complaints against officers of the rank of the SP and above. The district level authority may be headed by a retired District judge while the state level authority may be headed by a retired judge of the High Court/Supreme Court.

7. National Security Commission– The Central Government shall also set up a National Security Commission at the Union level to prepare a panel for being placed before the appropriate Appointing Authority, for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organizations, who should also be given minimum tenure of two years. It could be headed by the Union Home Minister and comprise heads of the CPOs and a couple of security experts as members with the Union Home Secretary as its Secretary.[6]

The Supreme Court required all the governments to comply with the seven directives with immediate effect. Responses of the State governments varied tremendously. After the Godhra incident in 2002, the Government of India set up a Police Act Drafting Committee (the Soli Sorabjee Committee) to draft a new model bill to guide the State Governments adoption of new police laws. The model was submitted on October 30, 2006. Some states have already passed new Police Acts, some are under the process of drafting the Acts, while some want to follow the directives of the Supreme Court. There are yet others who have requested certain modifications in the directives of the Supreme Court.

Conclusion And Suggestions:
After reading about all the reforms and their reports, it can be concluded that the recommendations of none of the committees have been taken into account seriously, and that there has been no or very little change in the conditions of the police in India. The society has undergone many changes economically and politically, but there have been almost negligible changes in the Indian Police structure.

Steps should be taken to replace or improvise and modernize the Indian Police Act which has been existing unfathomed since the British Rule. To bring about this change, new resources should be allocated instead of redistributing the old ones. The existing laws and procedures i.e., the Criminal Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code and the Indian Evidence Act should be re-examined and necessary amendments should be made. Efforts should be made to free the police system from political interference and to make the police an independent body. Steps should be taken to build up friendly relations between the police and the public through meetings for discussing public problems, etc. Also, the working conditions of the police should be improved along with providing proper training, reducing hours of work, increasing the salaries, providing housing facilities, educational facilities to the children of the police officials and conducting stress-busting and morale-boosting sessions for the police officials so that they can work in a stress-free atmosphere, with no frustrations, with no worries about their housing and about the education of their children, so that they can concentrate better in their work and serve the society better. This will eventually improve their image in the society and thus lead to a peaceful society based on cooperation and understanding. Thus it is high time to bring in a new police system in India to ensure greater accountability, efficiency and a citizen service minded approach.

Books referred:
#. Bharti, Dalbir. Police and People: Role and Responsibilities, 2006, APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi
#. Malleswari, V B. Police Reforms: Global Perspectives, 2007, The Icfai University Press, Hyderabad

[1] Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, p. 976
[2] Malleswari, V B, Police Reforms: Global Perspectives, 2007, The Icfai University Press, Hyderabad
[3] Malleswari, V B. Police Reforms: Global Perspectives, 2007, The Icfai University Press, Hyderabad, p. 37
[4] Malleswari, V B. Police Reforms: Global Perspectives, 2007, The Icfai University Press, Hyderabad, p.52-55

Author: Monika Deol A student of Third Semester, Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad Address: 48, Surya Estate, Sector No.11, Hiran Magri, Udaipur, Rajasthan.


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