Police Reforms is a subject that usually figures the lowest on the priority ladder of central and state governments. Also in public discourse, it is rarely talked about.
Image Graphics by Team Geostrata
Police forces along with other law enforcement agencies have a very negative public image. We, the people, mock the Police for their incompetence but no one wants to know why and where our police forces are lacking competence.
Police forces are the first responder to any emergency. Policing work has diversity and a lot of hardships too. Maintenance of law and order, VVIP protection, election duties, night patrolling, tackling regular and organised crimes, counterterrorism operations, and gathering intelligence are some of the many works that are performed by our men and women in khaki.
Given the shortage of manpower and lack of police reforms, the efficiency of policing is badly hit in India.
HISTORY OF POLICE REFORMS IN INDIA
Right from independence, various committees and commissions have been set up for police reforms. The first committee on police reforms was set up by the Kerala state government in 1959. This was followed by a succession of police commissions set up by various state governments in the sixties and seventies. ( West Bengal in 1960-61, Punjab in 1961-62 and Delhi in 1968 to name a few).
At the central level, a working group on police by the second administrative reforms commission was set up in 1966. This was followed by the Gore committee on police training in 1971. In 1977, a national police commission (NPC) was set up which was the most comprehensive commission of its time.
The national police commission was the first commission appointed at the national level since independence. Between 1979 and 1981, the commission submitted 8 reports. It suggested wide-ranging reforms in the existing policing setup and also advocated for a model police act. For example, the organisation of the police, its role, accountability, relations with the public, political interference in its work, misuse of power, etc. However, none of the recommendations of the commission was implemented by any government.
Seeing this sad state of affairs, retired IPS officer Prakash Singh (ex-DGP -Assam Police, UP Police and Border Security Force), filed a petition in the supreme court in 1996 to direct the government to implement the provisions of the NPC.
In the course of this 10- year-long case, the court set up the Ribeiro committee under the chairmanship of retired IPS officer JF Ribeiro (ex-DGP- PUNJAB POLICE), to review the action taken to implement the provisions of the NPC.
While the matter was underway in the supreme court in 2000, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) set up the Padmanabhaiah committee to examine the requirements of policing in the new millennium. The committee gave 240 recommendations out of which 23 were rejected by the ministry. However, the committee said that the 154 recommendations on the transfer and postings of police personnel, recruitment, revival of the beat system, etc. can be implemented without any structural changes.
In the same year in November, the Malimath committee on the criminal justice system was set up under the chairmanship of Dr.(justice) VS Malimath, a former chief justice of Kerala and Karnataka high courts. The committee submitted its report in April 2003 which contained 158 recommendations focussing on strengthening police training infrastructure, ramping up the forensic infrastructure, enactment of a new police act, setting up of central law enforcement agency to deal with federal crimes and separation of investigation wing from law and order wing for better efficiency, etc.
On 22nd September 2006, the supreme court gave a landmark judgement in the Prakash Singh v/s Union of India case. The key directions of the judgement are as follows:
(1) A state security commission for all states which will issue guidelines for police functioning.
(2) A Police Establishment Board in every state that will deal with postings of non-gazetted ranks.
(3) Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels that will inquire into allegations of abuse of power by police personnel.
(4) Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years to the DGP and other key police officers.
(5) The DGP of state police should be appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for promotion by the UPSC.
(6) Separation of the investigation wing from the law and order wing.
STATUS OF POLICE REFORMS IN INDIA
Police is a state subject so the onus for implementing police reforms goes to the states. But it is a pity that none of the states and UTs has fully complied with the directives.
This shows how our political parties are not willing to let lose their grip on the police. The relationship between the State government and the police is known for all the wrong reasons. Politicians want to remain in power for which they exercise their dominance with brute force. And police is the arm through which they exercise their dominance. So to stay in power, our political masters meddle in the affairs of the police. From recruitment to postings, politicians cover every aspect of the police.
On the other hand, police officers require political backing to grow their careers and hence the relationship grows deeper and deeper.
Now, looking at the data, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are the only states that have fully complied with the directive of selection and security of tenure of DGPs.
At present date, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Delhi, Mizoram, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand are the 16 states that have partially complied to separate investigation wing of police from law and order. Mizoram is the only state that has mentioned in its police act that personnel deputed in investigation units are to be given a secure tenure, allowed to specialise and not to be diverted to any other duty except under special circumstances with the prior permission of DGP.
Only Karnataka and Arunachal Pradesh are the states that have established a proper functioning police establishment board(PEB). Many of the directives have been implemented only on paper, especially those on the loosening of the political grip on police, changes in training curriculum and increase in the workforce of police.
Moreover, the states have blatantly violated the directions of the supreme court while making their police acts. The data on the strength of police personnel is also not encouraging. According to the May 2022 report of Bureau Of Police Research And Development (BPRD), there is a vacancy for at least 6 lakh police personnel in this country. The report has also pointed out that the expenditure on police has decreased to Rs.1.41 lakh crore in the year 2020-21 from 1.51 lakh crore in the year 2019-20. This is a worrying signal as the police forces are already short of monetary resources. As per the union budget for the financial year 2022-23, only 3% of the budget is allocated to the police. This shows the non-seriousness of the government towards the police.
The UN mandate for police per lakh of the population (PPR) is 222, whereas in India we have 193 police personnel per lakh of the population. The transport and communication facilities provided to police have taken a hit in the entire country. As per the observations of the select committee on home affairs (March 2022),257 police stations do not have transport facilities and 638 police stations do not have telecommunication facilities. So police reforms will remain a pipe dream unless we do not increase the strength and resources of police forces.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO BRING POLICE REFORMS IN THE COUNTRY :
Before I head to suggestions for bringing reforms, I would like to suggest that first and foremost, there should be awareness among people regarding the problems faced by our police forces.
If the masses are well informed regarding the reforms needed in police, then half the work will be done. Also, we have to convince our political masters that this subject is vote-extracting. As we all know that politicians go to heaven and earth for votes so by making them feel that by bringing police reforms people will vote in their favour, we can make police reforms a reality.
Now I will give some suggestions for bringing reforms to the functioning of the police:
The state government should focus on filling up the vacancies and increasing the strength of the police. Currently, there is a shortfall of 21% in the actual strength of the police. So this problem has to be resolved since a police force short of manpower will tend to perform inefficiently.
Through judicial activism, we the people should exert pressure on courts to give directions (given in Prakash Singh v/s Union of India case, 2006) that are binding for states to follow. The current situation is that the supreme court has given directions on police reforms that are not binding on states to follow.
Strengthening the beat system can help in fostering police-to-people relationships. The beat is the territory that a police officer holds. This method of policing is based on traditional policing and utilises the close relationship between community members and the police. The use of technology in beat policing can increase the output of police. We can take examples from Maharashtra Police and Haryana Police, who have implemented e-beat systems in their respective police forces. Both Police Forces have implemented e-beat systems for real-time monitoring of their personnel while they are carrying out their routine duties. So merging modern technology with the traditional beat system can help police in becoming "people's police".
BY SHIVAM SHARMA