still-awaiting-police-reform

Context: Common Cause’s recent survey on the Status of Policing in India says that Police brutality in recent months has turned quotidian.

Constitutional background:

  • The primary role of police forces is to uphold and enforce laws, investigate crimes and ensure security for people in the country.  
  • Police is a subject governed by states under the seventh schedule.
  • The centre maintains various central armed police forces and paramilitary forces. The centre is also responsible for policing in the union territories.  It also extends intelligence and financial support to the state police forces.
  • In emergency situations like communal riots, the centre can invoke Article 355 and take measures such as taking law and order of state under its own hand, deployment of military etc. 

Police reforms initiatives:

Directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh vs Union of India

  • Constitute a State Security Commission in every state that will lay down policy for police functioning, evaluate police performance, and ensure that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence on the police.
  • Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state that will decide postings, transfers and promotions for officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and make recommendations to the state government for officers of higher ranks.
  • Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to inquire into allegations of serious misconduct and abuse of power by police personnel.
  • Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP and other key police officers (e.g., officers in charge of a police station and district) within the state forces, and the Chiefs of the central forces to protect them against arbitrary transfers and postings.
  • Ensure that the DGP of state police is appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for the promotion by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of length of service, good record and experience.
  • Separate the investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
  • Constitute a National Security Commission to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chiefs of the central armed police forces.

Model Police Act, 2006

  • Independent Complaints Authority: Under the Model Police Act, 2006 drafted by the Police Act Drafting Committee (2005), and the Supreme Court guidelines (2006), states are required to set up state and district level complaints authorities.
  • Organisation and recruitment: Each state will have one police service, which shall be headed by the DGP.  Direct recruitments to subordinate ranks (i.e. below Deputy SP) will be made through a state level Police Recruitment Board.  
  • Accountability: State Police Boards will be constituted in each state to frame guidelines, select officers who are qualified to be promoted to the rank of DGP, and evaluate police performance.  Police Accountability Commissions will also be set up by states to address complaints of police misconduct.  
  • Service Conditions: The state government will ensure that the average hours of duty of a police officer do not exceed 8 hours (in exceptional situations, 12 hours).  Adequate insurance coverage will also be provided to personnel. A Police Welfare Board must also be set up to administer and monitor welfare measures.

Concerns:

  • Holding police accountable: In India, the political executive has the power of superintendence and control over the police forces to ensure their accountability. 
    • However, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the National Police Commission have noted that ministers have used police forces for personal and political reasons.
    • According to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (2018), there were 1,580 MPs and MLAs facing criminal charges. Therein lies the crux of the matter.
  • The setting up of a State Security Commission (SSC) in each State  would divest the political leaders of the unbridled power that they wield at present. 
    • Of the States that constituted an SSC, only Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have made SSC recommendations binding on the State government, according to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. 
  • Only six States provided a minimum tenure of two years to the Director General of Police (DGP). 
  • A report of the NITI Aayog shows that the composition of recommended authorities in several states is at variance with the Model Police Act, 2006 and the Supreme Court directions.
  • Vacancies and an overburdened force: Vacancies have been around 24%-25% in state police forces since 2009.
  • Poor quality of investigations: Crime per lakh population has increased by 28% over the last decade (2005-2015). However, convictions were secured in only 47% of the cases registered under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.  
  • Improving police infrastructure: CAG audits have found shortages in weaponry with state police forces.
  • Funding issues: Expenditure on police accounts for about 3% of the central and state government budgets. 
  • An overburdened police force: While the sanctioned police strength was 181 police per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137 police per lakh persons.  Note that the United Nations recommended standard is 222 police per lakh persons.
  • Low incentives for performance: 86% of the state police comprises constabulary. Constables are typically promoted once during their service.  This could weaken their incentive to perform well.

Way forward:

  • The Law Commission of India in its 273rd report recommended that the government ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment convention. 
  • Police-public relations: One of the ways of addressing this challenge is through the community policing model. For example Janamaithri Suraksha in Kerala
  • Constabulary related issues: 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 recommended the recommendations made in this regard has been to raise the qualification for entry into the civil police to class 12th or graduation from class Xth.
  • Reducing the burden: The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has recommended to outsource or redistribute some non-core police functions (such as traffic management, disaster rescue and relief, and issuing of court summons) to government departments or private agencies.
  • Police Complaints Authority: And it must implement the Supreme Court’s directive on setting up a Police Complaints Authority in every state of India.

The Court has to come down heavily on the States and the Centre to ensure that its directives are not dismissed lightly. A bold step towards bringing down crimes is possible only when the politicians-criminals-police nexus is strangled.

Best practices

  • The United Kingdom has an Independent Office for Police Conduct, comprising of a Director General appointed by the crown, and six other members appointed by the executive and the existing members, to oversee complaints made against police officers.
  • Another example is that of the New York City Police which has a Civilian Complaint Review Board consisting of civilians appointed by local government bodies and the police commissioner to investigate cases of police misconduct.

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Q) The Court has to come down heavily on the States and the Centre to ensure that its directives regarding Police reforms are implemented. A bold step towards bringing down crimes is possible only when the politicians-criminals-police nexus is strangled. Discuss. (250 words)