Police Reforms: Today’s Talk on Editorials
Significance: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the Annual Conference of DGPs and IGPs on 7 and 8 January at the BSF Academy at Tekanpur in Madhya Pradesh. DGPs Conference is an annual event in which top police officers from all over the country share and discuss security related issues. Prime Minister has addressed the conference earlier in Guwahati, Assam in 2014, Dhordo, Rann of Kutch, Gujarat in 2015 and National Police Academy, Hyderabad in 2016. PM had emphasised the importance of leadership, soft skills and collective training. He specifically mentioned the importance of technology and human interface for the police force.
However, the colonial structure of police force in India is still not replaced according to the demands of the country. The government is yet to take any initiatives to transform the police force into a progressive, modern force sensitive to the democratic aspirations of the people.
History of Police reforms before Supreme Court intervention: Almost three decades of discussion passed since the government created committees and commissions to reform police force in the country. In 1979, the National Police Commission was set up to report on policing and give recommendations for reform. The Commission produced eight reports and dozens of topic specific recommendations and also a Model Police Act.
No recommendations were adopted by any government.
It persuaded two former Director General of Police in 1996 to file a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court asking the Court to direct governments to implement the NPC recommendations. By 1998 the Court set up the Ribeiro Committee which handed in its reports in 1999. This was followed by the Police Act Drafting Committee that drafted a new model police bill to replace the colonial 1861 Police Act. But the truth remains that nothing was ever done on the ground to improve policing or implement recommendations put forth by any of these committees.
Police Reforms suggested by Supreme Court: With no ground level improvement on the situation of police force, in 2006 there was a landmark judgement in the Prakash Singh and Ors vs Union of India case. By this case, the Supreme Court ordered that reform must take place. The states and union territories were directed to comply with seven binding directives that would kick start reform.The Court required immediate implementation of its orders either through executive orders or new police legislation. The seven important recommendations are:
- State Security Commission: Supreme Court directed the government to constitute 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.
- Appointment of DGP: SC directed the government to ensure that the DGP is appointed through merit based transparent process and secure a
minimum tenure of two years.
- Security of Tenure: The government must 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.
- Separation of functions: The government must take steps to ensure separation of the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
- Transparency: The government has to set up a Police Establishment Board 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.
- Actions against misconduct: The government has to constitute an institutional mechanism like a Police Complaints Authority 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 district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
- National Security Commission: The government should constitute a national security commission at the union level to prepare a panel for
selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations with a minimum tenure of two years.
The seven directives provide practical mechanisms to kick-start reform. They make up a scheme which if implemented holistically will correct the common ills that create poor 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 public complaints are addressed and police accountability enhanced.
SMART Police Idea: SMART Police idea was given by the P.M. of India on Directors General/ Inspectors General Annual Conference at Guwahati on Nov. 30, 2014. It refers to development of Sensitive and Strict, Modern with mobility, Alert and Accountable, Reliable and Responsive, Trained and Techno-savvy police officers. SMART Police will be complemented by development of SMART police stations across the country. The SMART Police Station would become the foundation towards SMART policing. A SMART Police Station should be citizen friendly and clean. It should also meet the operational and welfare needs of the police personnel posted there. Some suggested features of a SMART Police Station are basic amenities for visitors, rest room for constables, natural lighting and ventilation, automated kiosks for filing of complaints by public
Conclusion: Since the political class has a vested interest in the present police system, no amount of pressure from outside or inside will work. We will have to look back on the judiciary and its steps to improve police forces as it wants an impartial and professional police force because it knows that the criminal justice system cannot function without a healthy police and investigative agency.