Police reforms in India: The first edition of the India Justice Report — brought out by the Tata Trusts in partnership with other NGOs — has ranked states and Union Territories on the four pillars of the justice system: Police, Prisons, Judiciary and Legal Aid.
What report says about policing
- The report underscores the capacity deficit plaguing policing in the country. According to the report, only 1 of the 22 states for which data were available, was able to fully utilize its police modernization fund.
- Over the past five years, in just 14 of the 33 states and UTs for which data are available, police expenditure grew more than the state’s overall expenditure.
- The report also found that on average there were more than 20% vacancies in the police.
- In 2009, the Government of India had adopted a target of 33% reservation for women in police. As of January 2017, women make up just 7% of police.
Fig: Expert Bodies that have examined police reforms
Police forces have the authority to exercise force to enforce laws and maintain law and order in a state. However, this power may be misused in several ways.
- Accountability to the political executive vs operational freedom
Both the central and state police forces come under the control and superintendence of the political executive (i.e., central or state government). The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) has noted that this control has been abused in the past by the political executive to unduly influence police personnel, and have them serve personal or political interests.
- Independent Complaints Authority
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the Supreme Court have observed that there is a need to have an independent complaints authority to inquire into cases of police misconduct.
The Seven Directives by Supreme Court (2006)
The apex court gave its nearly revolutionary directions in 2006, a decade after Mr. Prakash Singh first filed his petition. The states and union territories were directed to comply with seven binding directives that would kick-start reform.
1) Directive One
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 guidelines.
- Evaluate the performance of the state police.
2) Directive Two
- Ensure that the DGP is appointed through the merit-based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
3) Directive Three
- 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.
4) Directive Four
- Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
5) Directive Five
- Set up a Police 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.
6) Directive Six
- 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 district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
7) Directive Seven
- 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 Organizations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.
After this, 14 states have passed legislation but these were mainly to circumvent the directives but not to implement them. Till today, the government has not shown its commitment to follow the directives of the court in true letter and spirit.
Vacancies and an overburdened force
Currently there are significant vacancies within the state police forces and some of the central armed
Constabulary related issues
- Qualifications and training: The constabulary constitutes 86% of the state police forces. A constable’s responsibilities are wide-ranging, and are not limited to basic tasks. Therefore, a constable is expected to have some analytical and decision-making capabilities, and the ability to deal with people with tact, understanding and firmness.
The Padmanabhaiah Committee and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that the entry level qualifications (i.e. completion of class 10th or 12th in many states) and training of constables do not qualify them for their role.
- Promotions and working conditions: The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has further noted that the promotion opportunities and working conditions of constables are poor, and need to be improved.
- Housing: Importance of providing housing to the constabulary (and generally to the police force) to improve their efficiency and incentive to accept remote postings has also been emphasised by expert bodies, such as the National Police Commission.
- A core function of the state police forces and some central police agencies like the CBI is crime
- Crime investigation requires skills and training, time and resources, and adequate forensic capabilities and infrastructure.
- However, the Law Commission and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that state police officers often neglect this responsibility because they are understaffed and overburdened with various kinds of tasks.
Modern policing requires a strong communication support, state-of-art or modern weapons, and a high
degree of mobility. The CAG and the BPRD have noted shortcomings on several of these fronts.
- Weaponry: The CAG has found that weaponry of several state police forces is outdated, and the
acquisition process of weapons slow, causing a shortage in arms and ammunition.
- Police vehicles: Audits have noted that police vehicles are in short supply. New vehicles are often used to replace old vehicles, and there is a shortage of drivers.
- Police Telecommunication Network (POLNET): The POLNET project was initiated by the central governed in 2002 to connect the police and paramilitary forces of the country through a satellite-based communication network, that will be significantly faster than the existing system of radio communications.
- Underutilization of funds for modernization: Both center and states allocate funds for modernization of state police forces. These funds are typically used for strengthening police infrastructure, by way of construction of police stations, purchase of weaponry, communication equipment and vehicles.
- Police requires confidence, cooperation and support of the community to prevent crime and disorder.
- The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has noted that police-public relations is in an unsatisfactory state because people view the police as corrupt, inefficient, politically partisan and unresponsive.
Reforms Required (Strategy for New India @75)
With fiscal support to the states now being looked after under the umbrella scheme, the following reforms may be considered:
- The Model Police Act of 2015 can serve as the basis for legislative reform as it modernizes the mandate of the police, puts in place a governance mechanism that insulates the police from political interference and provides for the measurement and tracking of police performance.
- A task force may be created under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to skill personnel and identify non-core functions that can be outsourced to save on staff.
- States should be encouraged to ensure greater representation of women in the police force. The MHA should come up with a policy to encourage greater participation of women to achieve a target share of 30 per cent women among new recruits.
- Launch a common nation-wide emergency contact number to attend to emergency security needs of citizens.
- Integrate the Lokpal and Prevention of Corruption Acts into police reforms to enhance accountability.
- Transfers/postings of police personnel should be made more transparent and the involvement of police in prosecution needs to be looked at more closely.
It is important to consider introduction of remodeled training modules, refresher courses and continuing education for police personnel including live-streaming of training modules on
- e-platforms. A concept of certification of security personnel with identified skill sets may be considered with linkage to promotion and deployment.
- Introduce reform of the First Information Report (FIR) lodging mechanism, including introducing filing e-FIRs for minor offences. Besides, police challans, investigation reports, etc.should be made available through the online portal of each police station.
- A separate cadre for exclusively looking into cyber-crimes, cyber threats and fraud needs to be developed.
- A panel of experts in psychology, negotiation, language proficiency and training may be put together.
- A technology center may be considered for benchmarking and identifying suitable technologies for the police under BPR&D in collaboration with IITs.
- A separate National Cyber Security Division may be considered to support and coordinate initiatives of state governments in handling cyber-crimes.
Examples of community policing in India (Best Practices)
Janamaithri Suraksha in Kerala
This project is an initiative of the Kerala Police to facilitate greater accessibility, close interaction and
better understanding between the police and local communities.
Meira Paibi (Torch-bearers) in Assam
The women of the Manipuri Basti in Guwahati help with improving the law and order problem in their
area, by tackling drug abuse among the youth.
“Police reforms have been a talking point for years in India but remain a non-starter.” Discuss the major issues in Indian policing system. Also, discuss the reforms required for efficient policing in India.