Police Reform

  • Police is a state subject in Schedule VII
  • NCRB Report
    • Low conviction rates. Conviction rate is 46.9% under IPC crimes
    • About 300% increase in agrarian riots. Depicts weak law and order in hinterland and rising lawlessness.
  • The Supreme Court has ordered States and Union Territories to upload, on police or government websites, First Information Reports (FIRs) within 24 hours of their registration in police stations.
  • The median ratio of police officers to constabulary is 5%
  • There are a total of about 1.8 million police personnel employed by Indian state police organizations today and there are also 300,000 vacancies
  • This results in a median 200 policemen for every 100,000 people, though it ranges widely from 76 in Bihar to 700 in Delhi
Innovative Steps taken:
  • Government has launched a Digital Police Portal
  • It is a platform for citizens to file online crime related complaints and also request for antecedent verification.
Significance of this Prakash Singh vs Union of India Case:
Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh vs Union of India case was the landmark in the fight for police reforms in India. In its directions, the court had pulled together recommendations generated since 1979. They make up a scheme, which, if implemented holistically, will cure common problems that perpetuate poor police performance and unaccountable law enforcement.
The design requires states and the Centre to put in place mechanisms to ensure that:
  • The police have functional responsibility while remaining under the supervision of the executive.
  • Political control over the police is kept within legitimate bounds.
  • Internal management systems are fair and transparent.
  • Policing is increased in terms of its core functions.
  • Public complaints are addressed through an independent mechanism.
What were 2006 directions?
The 2006 SC directions included :
  • Establishing a State Security Commission (SSC) as a watchdog with members from the government, judiciary and the civil society. The commission was supposed to frame policies which make sure that “state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the state police”.
  • The order asked for tenure of DGP and field officers to be fixed at two years. However, Centre told the Supreme Court that states were misusing the SC direction to give two-year tenures to directors general of police and were appointing officers nearing retirement to the posts to give them two additional years in service.
  • A police establishment board, instead of the government, would deal with transfers of policemen.
  • It also asked for separation of investigation and law and order units for speedy probe.
What’s the problem now?
  • Directions of SC have not been implemented by the states
  • While few states actively resisted the court’s order, few states did nothing.
  • While few did something but did it wrong and finally, got out from under the Supreme Court’s orders by passing laws which not only do not conform to the court’s orders but actually give statutory sanction to bad practices.
  • Since the 2006 SC order, 17 states have passed new Acts while 12 have issued executive orders. For instance, in the majority of the 17 Police Acts passed since 2006, state governments have given themselves the sole discretion to appoint police chiefs instead of choosing from a panel recommended by the UPSC.
  • In many of the nine operational Police Complaints Authorities currently in place, their design has been subverted by appointing serving police officers as judges in their own cause. Elsewhere, their functioning has been hobbled by the lack of independent investigators.
Why police reform is necessary?
Police is an exclusive subject under the State List of the Indian Constitution. States can enact any law on the subject of police. But most of the states are following the archaic Indian Police Act 1861 with a few modifications. Also, police have become the ‘subjects’ of Parliamentarians and legislators – with a high degree of politicization and allegiance towards ruling party.
India still follows the Police Act, 1861, framed by the British, largely with an aim to crush dissent. The Act was a reaction to the sepoy uprising of 1857.
Challenges faced by police force in the country:
  • Collection and analysis of preventive intelligence: The most important and challenging task faced by the police today is the collection and analysis of preventive intelligence and follow-up action, especially pertaining to terrorists and insurgents who pose a constant challenge to internal security.
  • Criminal Investigation: The other important, but badly neglected, aspect of policing is criminal investigation. Standards have declined sharply in the last few years. Unfortunately, the so-called premier investigation agencies like state CIDs and the CBI are no exception.
  • Vacancies: Many states continue to have huge vacancies. Even the apex court’s direction to fill these posts has not yielded the desired results.
  • Outdated arms and equipment: Most state police forces continue to use obsolete equipment and arms, and lack the latest technology that would help in investigation and intelligence-gathering.
  • Lack of Organisation: There are no organisations to provide the police forces with tested and dependable specifications on equipment and technology. They are generally dependent on vendors, who often sell outdated or not-so-suitable technology.
  • Lack of proper training: Well-trained and motivated human resources are key to any police force’s success. But, most training academies are poorly staffed and often don’t have the necessary facilities. Institutions need to be upgraded in terms of facilities, equipment and technology.
What has the centre done in this regard?
The Central government had formed committees to create a Model Police law in line with the Court’s directions. It also came up with the Model Bill in 2006. However, the Model Bill of 2006 drafted under Soli Sorabjee’s chairpersonship has been adopted in breach by 17 states and entirely ignored by the Centre.
Another Police Act drafting committee was also formed in 2013 to make revisions to the 2006 model. Dutifully, it has given its recommendations, which now lie mouldering in bureaucratic caverns measureless to man.
The demand for police reforms is over 100 years old with the first such attempt made by Indian Police Commission of 1902-03 under British rule. Since then, it has seen five state commissions and six national-level commissions with all their reports gathering dust. But, it is imperative that more needs to be done than mere structural changes within the system. It is essential to now look at the police as a service organization meeting those needs of the society that are essential for safety, security, quality of life and peace. Community involvement, problem oriented policing and proactive policing strategies need to be adopted in the changing scenario of society.
What are the challenges faced by police set up?
Administrative Challenges
  1. Too much political interference in police functioning
  2. Frequent transfers/postings
  3. 24X7 working conditions; Low salary; No respect
Logistical Challenges
  1. Lack of training
  2. Weak infrastructure
  3. Low people: police ratio
What to do?
  • Numerous commission have given their recommendations in past like Dharam Veera commission, Julia Ruberio Committee, Soli Sorabjee Committee (Model code), SC 7 point recommendations (Prakash Singh Case) etc.
  • We need political will to implement these.
Reforming the police in India is sine qua non to ensure a functional democracy where citizens enjoy their rights without fear. In this regard, critically examine how the Supreme Court has played its role in enforcing police reforms and with what outcome. (200 Words)
In the Indian political context, it is the institution of police that didn’t get its share of reforms till date. It is still dependent on the colonial police act, 1861. The citizens enjoy rights without fear only with harmonised order that can be guaranteed by police reforms. This made the Supreme Court to identify the problems and recommended the following:
  1.  To set up state security commissions to insulate the state police from extraneous pressures;
  2. Set up Police establishment boards to give autonomy to the department in personnel matters; and
  3. Police complaints authorities to ensure better accountability of the force.
  4. In addition to these, the court also laid down a procedure for appointment of the DGP and gave him a fixed tenure of two years, mandated two-year tenure for officers performing operational duties in the field, and gave directions for the separation of investigation from law and order.
But, many state governments passed executive orders and some passed weak laws to circumvent this decision and still there is no implementation of above direction. Still, Police works under the extraneous pressure and agents of high politicians. So, if India has to become a vibrating democracy where there is rule of law and right of citizens are ensured, police reforms are much needed.



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