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Police Reforms in India: A Need of Hour

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Context

The recent horrendous case of custodial death of P. Jayaraj and Benicks in the state of Tamilnadu has once again ignited the debates on the working of police administration and regarding the immediate needs of the police reforms in the country. This case has proved to be “the hot-potato” among the intellectuals and civil societies which in turn created a narrative in the country that the police reforms are the need of the hour.

Present Scenario

According to article 246 of the Indian constitution, the police force is a state subject and not dealt with at the central level. Each state govt has the responsibility to draw guidelines, rules and regulations for their respective police forces. The Indian Police Act (IPA) of 1861 is the current basic governing instrument of the Indian Police force. It lays down the structure and functions of the police departments in the country. The IPA was drafted by the Britishers as a direct consequence of the first war of independence to ensure the police system’s subservience to the executive and to remain authoritarian in its contact with the public and centralisation of power and strong hierarchy like that of the army.

Despite completely different situations in present times, this act continues to be stagnant and outdated.

List of Duties- 

These tasks were listed originally in 1861, the duties have expanded and slightly changed since then and a more recent list of duties would be:

1.    Maintaining Law and Order

2.    Riot control

3.    crime investigation

4.    protection of state assets

5.    VIP protection

6.    Traffic control

Issues in Police Organisation in India

Various committees like National police commission reports, Gore committee, Malimath committee etc have highlighted the issues in police organisation which are as follows:

  1. Old and Archaic Bluebooks All acts governing the police administration like IPA of 1861, Indian Penal Code of 1860, Code of criminal procedure 1973, Indian evidence act of 1872 etc are outdated and required modifications were not made.
  2. Over Centralisationmost of the power lies with senior officials.
  3. Poor and inadequate Police-Community relations In India, people generally possess a negative impression regarding police and also avoids getting involved in police matters.
  4. Over-burdened organisation Due to the multiplication of functions, vital tasks like maintaining law & order, crime investigation etc. takes a back seat.
  5. Unwanted political and executive interference.
  6. Lack of modern technology/methods of investigation emphasising on physical torture, third-degree etc
  7. obsolete intelligence gathering techniques for example depending on Mukhbir, depending on offline data, inadequate training etc
  8. Divorce of police from accountability.
  9. shortage of personnel and long working hours.
  10. Corruption, Extortion from local vendors, small MSMEs and Collusion/nexus with political, executive and criminals.
  11. Absence of transparent recruitment and personnel policies- hence best talent not attracted in both the police department as well as public prosecutors.

Important commissions

It is not that any attempts were not made after independence. Various efforts by various governments were made, several committees were constituted to make recommendations. Some of the important committees were:

  • National Police Commission reports
  • Gore Committee on Police Training (1971-73)
  • Ribeiro Committee on Police reforms (1998)
  • Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms (2000)
  • Group of Ministers on National Security (2000-01)
  • Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System (2001-03)

Essence of Various committees- 

Over three decades, the NPCR and various committees including Ribeiro, Gore, Padmanabhaiah and Malimath have urged radical reorganisation of the police force. Despite agreement on the following recommendations made by these committees, most reforms have not been implemented.

Mitigating Political Interference-  the threat of transfer/suspension is the most potent weapon in the hands of politicians. Most committees have recommended states to set up mechanisms to assure fixed tenures and merit-based promotions for police officers.

Abiding by the Supreme Court- In Sept 2006, the Supreme Court of India delivered a historic judgement in Prakash Singh vs Union of India, instructing central and state governments to comply with 7 directives that laid down practical mechanisms to kick start police reforms. Seven directives were: a> Constitute a state security commission. b> Fixed 2-year tenure for DGP. c> 2-year term for SPs and SHOs. d> Separate investigation and Law & Order functions. e> Setup Police Establishment Board. f> Setup police complaints authorities at State and districts levels. g> Set up National Security Commission at Central level

Separating Investigation from L&O- also officers should be specially trained in modern investigative techniques.

Registering all offences- It should be made mandatory for police officers to register all crimes that are reported to them.

Complaints against Police- Judicial inquiries should be made mandatory for any alleged incident of rape, grievous hurt or death in police custody and in cases where 2 or more persons die during police firing against unlawful assemblies.

Preventing police torture- Training institutes should impart scientific interrogation techniques to replace third-degree methods. Senior officers should also pay surprise visits to stations to identify cases of ill-treatment of arrested persons.

Dealing with the weaker sections- Special investigation cells should monitor cases of atrocities against SC/ST and women.

Targeting the recruitment of women- only 1.8% of the police force comprises of women. they should be recruited in many large numbers, made an integral part of the police organisation, and used to deal with crimes against women and children.

Supreme Court’s DK Basu’s judgement of 1996 should be sincerely followed that lays down 11 guidelines for police that focuses on vital processual safeguards, also directs states fo the establishment of State Human Right Commission under section 30 of National Human Right Commission act, setting up CCTVs in all prisons within one year etc.

Conclusion

These all recommendations given by various committees must be earnestly implemented so that India can take a leaf forward towards robust and proactive khaki and sensible police system. This will enable Indian police to withstand their motto “Satyameva Jayathe” meaning “Truth Alone Triumphs”.

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Sumit Chaudhary

UPSC Aspirant and MA from Delhi University

Sumit is an UPSC aspirant and defence enthusiastic who keeps an eye on recent Geopolitical Developments. He is Fitness Freak and great all-rounder in the game of the Cricket

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