Police reforms is the demand of today. The global average ratio of police-population is 270 to 100,000, but it is 120 in India. With far less police – ill trained, ill-equipped and most of them being posted to protect the politicians, people of India are the least secure (most vulnerable) people in the world.
While addressing the Directors general of police in Guwahati on November 30, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi enunciated the concept of SMART Police — police which would be strict and sensitive, modern and mobile, alert and accountable, reliable and responsible, tech-savvy and trained.
‘The police force is far from efficient, it is defective in training and organisation, it is inadequately supervised, it is generally regarded as corrupt and oppressive, and it has utterly failed to secure the confidence and cordial cooperation of the people’
– A.H.L.Fraser, Chairman of the Second Police Commission (1902)
Since 1902 little has changed. The Police Act of 1861 still guides and governs our police system. The colonial mindset of the police, the distrust people had for the police in British India has continued to date.
So far we have seen either bad reforms or no reforms in making the police relevant to highly insecure India that is prone to various threats from both inside and outside its geopolitical borders.
History of Police Reforms
Police is an exclusive subject under the State List (List II, Schedule 7 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. Police have become the ‘subjects’ of Parliamentarians and legislators – with a high degree of politicization and allegiance towards ruling party.
- Starting from the second Police Commission in 1902 headed by A.H.L. Fraser, there have been many commissions and committees formed to look into reforming the police in India.
- Prominent among them are: Gore Committee on Police Training, the National Police Commission, The Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms, The Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms (summary), Prakash Singh Vs Union of India – SC directives for Police Reforms and Soli Sorabjee Committee.
- The 22 September, 2006 verdict of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh vs Union of India case was the landmark in the fight for police reforms in India. Unfortunately, even the directions of SC have not been implemented by the states.
Justice Thomas committee, which was set up to monitor the implementation of the Court’s directions, expressed a sense of “dismay” over the indifference to judicial directions.
Police Reforms | The way Forward
- Government should bring police/public order under the Concurrent List of the Constitution. All state governments depend on the Centre to maintain law and order. An amendment to the Constitution would give de jure status to what is already de facto on the ground.
- Government may also declare certain crimes as ‘federal’ and entrust their investigation to a Central Agency. This would be in keeping with the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission.
- The manpower deficiencies in the police organisation must be addressed immediately to ensure better maintenance of law and order in the country.
- Police transport and other infrastructure facilities need to be upgraded and bring to the level of a modern state of Gujarat, where the Forensic facilities are available not only at State level, but also in the form of regional, district and mobile laboratories.
- National Police Commission had also recommended family accommodation for all the gazetted and non-gazetted police personnel. As housing has a direct impact on the welfare and morale of the police personnel, the government needs to take care of the same.
- Huge burden of work and inadequate manpower availability force the police offers to work for 10-16 hours a day, round the week, which causes stress and leads to multiple complications including rude behaviour with the public and subsequent depression and other mental issues.
- Separation of investigation from law and order is the least controversial direction of the Supreme Court which could be implemented immediately without political imperatives of the decision.
What we need to understand is the urgency of bringing such reforms. As in the case of the Lokpal Bill, we need a leadership role of the civil society and constant coercion towards the states. But the difficulty lies in the fact that, it’s been impossible to persuade each state to enact a law in consonance with the Supreme Court directives. The only hope was Supreme Court, and it seems the states need another stern warning from the court – which they got and forgot.