- In police matters, today India is confronted with a situation where every state is legislating a different Police Act.
- These Acts are being passed purportedly in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms given on September 22, 2006. However, an analysis of these Acts shows that the objective behind these laws is to give legislative cover to the existing arrangement and thereby circumvent the implementation of judicial directions.
- Eighteen states have already passed Police Acts.
- Soon after the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms, the Police Act Drafting Committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs headed by Soli Sorabjee, a former Attorney General, came out with the Model Police Act, 2006.
- The Government of India should have enacted a law based on this Model Police Act with such changes as it may have found necessary, and the states should have mutatis mutandis adopted it.
- That would have ensured a uniform police structure across the country. That did not happen. The Centre has been dilly-dallying on passing a Model Police Act.
- The Police Act legislated in 1861 applied to almost the whole of India.
- The colonial government was of the view that the “conditions of police service, machinery and work must be fairly uniform throughout India”.
- The Police Commission appointed by Lord Curzon in 1902 found that the Act V of 1861was not applicable in the provinces of Madras and Bombay — it, therefore, recommended that the Act be enforced in these provinces as well.
- In due course, the states passed their own Police Regulations/Manuals, but these were essentially within the framework of the central legislation.
- It is a galling thought, but the British showed greater vision and far-sightedness in the matter.
- Several states have, in the absence of any central guidance or directive, passed their own Police Acts, blatantly violating the Supreme Court’s directions. However, The Supreme Court has, for inexplicable reasons, not issued a contempt notice to any of the states for non-compliance of its directions on police reforms.
- Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent and it lays down that such an Act shall apply to the consenting states and to any other states by which it is adopted through a resolution passed on that behalf by the House or, where there are two Houses, by each of the Houses of the legislature of that state.
- The least that the Government of India could have done was to legislate for the UTs and then prevail upon the states where it's party was in power to pass similar legislation.
- That way, we would have achieved some uniformity in 10 to 12 states. Enacting a similar law in the other states could have been incentivised by linking their passage with the modernisation grants made available to the states.
- In retrospect, it was perhaps a mistake to have copied in the Constitution the distribution of powers between the Centre and the states from the Government of India Act of 1935. However, it would be wrong to blame the founding fathers of the Constitution for that. They could not have foreseen that, over time, policing would become so complex, politics so murky and that Centre-state relations would be under great strain.
- The best option would be for the central and state governments to respect each other’s turf in a spirit of cooperative federalism.
- If that does not happen, it would perhaps be necessary to have a fresh look at the distribution of powers in the seventh schedule of the Constitution.
Government of India Act 1935
- The Constitution of 1950 was a by-product of the legacy started by the Government of India Act 1935. This was the longest act passed by the British government with 321 sections and 10 schedules.
- This act had drawn its content from four sources – Report of the Simon Commission, discussions and deliberations at the Third Round Table Conference, the White Paper of 1933 and the reports of the Joint select committees.
- This act abolished the system of provincial dyarchy and suggested the establishment of a dyarchy at the centre and a ‘Federation of India’ consisting of the provinces of British India and most of the princely states.
- Most importantly, the act established the office of the Governor; all the executive powers and authority of the centre was vested in the Governor.
- Some features of the Government of India Act 1935 were:
- Federal Legislature: The act suggested that the legislature will have two houses, i.e., the Council of States and a Federal Assembly. The Council of States was the upper house which was a permanent body with a tenure of three years and composed of 260 members of which 156 were representatives of British India and 101 of the Princely Indian states. The Federal Assembly was the lower house with a tenure expanding up to five years and its composition included 250 representatives of British India and 125 members from Princely states.
- Provincial Autonomy: This act enabled the Provincial Governments to be responsible only to Provincial Legislatures and helped them break free from external control and intrusion. It was with the establishment of this act that the powers between the centre and provinces were divided in terms of three lists – Federal list (59 items for the Centre), Provincial list (54 items for Provinces) and Concurrent list (36 items for both). The Residuary powers were handed over to the Viceroy.