Last week Supreme Court rejected a plea seeking police reforms and said “Police reforms are going on and on. Nobody listens to our orders.”
Let us examine in detail the story of Police reforms in India.
- Way back in 1979, the Janata government appointed a National Police Commission (NPC) to report on policing and give recommendations for reform. The Commission produced eight reports, dozens of topic specific recommendations and also a Model Police Act.
- None of the major recommendations were adopted by any government. So former Director Generals of Police (DGP) Prakash Singh in 1996 filed a PIL asking the Court to direct governments to implement the NPC recommendations.
- In the course of the 10 year long case, in 1998 the Court set up the Ribeiro Committee which handed in its reports in 1999. This was followed by the Padmanabhaiah Committee report in 2000 and eventually the Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC) or Soli Sorabjee Committee that drafted a new model police bill to replace the colonial 1861 Police Act.
- ‘Police’ being a State subject under the Constitution, the process of consultation was tortuous and time-consuming and finally judgement was delivered in 2006 which is popularly referred to as the Prakash Singh case the Supreme Court ordered that reform must take place.
Seven Directives by Supreme Court
- The court gave seven practical mechanisms to kick-start reform which if implementedcould improve police performance and unaccountable law enforcement today.
- The scheme puts in place mechanisms to better ensure that:
- the police have functional responsibility while remaining under the supervision of the political executive;
- political control of police by the political executive is conditioned and kept within its legitimate bounds;
- internal management systems are fair and transparent;
- policing efficiencies are increased in terms of their core functions and
- Most importantly public complaints are addressed and police accountability enhanced.
Problems noted by Supreme Court
- No present law or conventions in practice that indicate the limits of political ‘supervision’ and ‘control’ over the police leading to undue interference by politicians in duties of the police
- No rationale system for evaluating police performance against a set of pre-determined criteria.
Arbitrariness in the appointment of the highest ranking police officer, appointments made on considerations of personal preference and frequent transfers taking place at the behest of influential third parties uncertainty of office and tenure.Ineffective, slow, inadequately trained staff – with little accountability, remedies or recompense for victims of abuse of power and criminal behavior.
THE SEVEN DIRECTIVES SUMMARY
Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:
- Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police
- Lay down broad policy guideline and
- Evaluate the performance of the state police
Ensure that the DGP is appointed through merit based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years
Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years
Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police
Setup aPolice Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers,postings,promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police
Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at districtlevelstoinquireintopubliccomplaintsagainstthepolicepersonnelbelowtherankof Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years
- Since 2006 have been dismaying, with several State governments devising their own means to dilute — if not wholly sabotage — what the Supreme Court had laid down.
- Many States brought in a quick, watered down version of the essentials of the Supreme Court direction.
- This is why we still see Directors and Inspectors-Generals (IGs) are being handed out a two-year tenure on paper, but given marching orders midway into their tenure on the most untenable and imaginary grounds. Nobody has protested.
- No state has managed to fulfil all the criteria prescribed by the Supreme Court with regards to the State Security Commission. Most states have set up SSCs that do not reflect the Court’s criteria with regard to composition, function and powers. States such as Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu are in complete non-compliance with this directive.
- The Central government’s efforts toward encouraging national reform have included the formation of committees to create a Model Police law in line with the Court’s directions. But it has been a laggard in Delhi’s case which is under the Central Government. The Centre constituted a State Security Commission for Delhi in 2011. It has both the chief minister and lieutenant governor on it. Despite its potential to create policy, provisioning and performance guarantees for better policing, it has met just five times since then and not even once 2015.
Conclusion and Way forward
- All this proves how little individual safety — of women, children, the vulnerable, the minority, the migrant, the dissenter, “the other” — really matters to governments, whatever the party.
- Communities are the main beneficiaries of good policing and the main victims of bad policing;
- Community and civil society participation in the process is essential if the police is going to be efficient, effective and accountable.
- State governments therefore need to publicize their initiative to redraft police legislation. This will ensure that the legislation adequately reflects the needs and aspirations of the people in relation to the police service they want.
- This can be done by various means including
- Inviting public and civil society participation in drafting committees
- Inviting public submissions on the type of police service communities would want
- Inviting input from police at all levels about the type of service they want to be part of.
- Ensuring that draft that go before the state assemblies and Parliament is in the public domain and made available for comment under proactive disclosure provisions in section 4(1)(c) of the Right to Information Act
- The police reforms have remained elusive even after a decade of the landmark judgement of Prakash Singh vs. Union of India case. Can civil society bring a perceptible change in the manner in which policing is carried out in most parts of the country?
- The Police establishment in India is plagued by many issues, underlining several problems suggest measures to reform Police.