Indian Police and Ethics


    In News

    • The role of the police has an ethical or moral dimension which is not found in most other occupations.

    Reasons for different Police Ethics

    • Takes Moral Decisions:
      • Life and liberty are fundamental moral values and are held to be so in all human societies, and the police routinely have to decide whether or not to take away someone’s freedom or someone’s life.
      • While making any moral decisions, the police have to consider a complex array of actions
    • Considers Good or Bad along with Law:
      • Police have to consider the goodness and badness of a person before they can consider whether their actions are wrong. 
      • They have to do their jobs in accordance with the laws that are in place at that time, they say.
    • Responds to Various Emotions: T
      • In the course of their work, police officers are likely to experience a range of emotions including fear, anger, suspicion, excitement, and boredom to a far greater extent than people in other occupations. 
      • To act effectively, they must be able to respond to these emotions in the right way, which requires them to be emotionally intelligent.

    National Human Rights Commission, 1998, on Police Ethics

    • Police need to reach the Good ends but via problematic means:
      • In a democratic society, the police must be “low in authority and high in accountability.” 
      • Protection of human rights is a core police function: Also, the police ethics definition and police institutions exist to serve the highest of moral purposes, to protect the rights to life, liberty, and property of citizens in a democratic polity. 
      • The means routinely used by the police necessarily include harmful methods, such as coercion and deception. 
      • This apparent inconsistency between good ends and problematic means sets up a dangerous moral dynamic not simply in Indian policing but in police work throughout the world.
    • Moral Rights: 
      • Police practice must comply with carefully worked out ethical principles that appropriately balance the moral rights of victims with those of suspects. For example, the use of deadly force by police to protect citizens and themselves must be constrained by the ethical principles of necessity and proportionality.

    Issues with Rule of Politics

    • The rule of law is being replaced and undermined by the rule of politics, which is a cause of concern for establishing good governance in the country.
    • Reasons for the politicisation of the police:
      • The lack of a proper tenure policy for the posting of officers at different levels and 
      • The arbitrary transfers and postings that have been used for political interest.
      • Politicians use transfer and suspension as weapons to tame police officers.
    • Impact:
      • Mindless denigration of the police is undermining the authority of those officials/superiors who might be honest, competent, and fair-minded.
      • These punitive measures affect the morale of the police and damage the chain of command within the organisation.


    Issues with the present Police System

    • Overburdened Police Force: Police forces across India are inadequately staffed.  As per UN there should be 222 police personnel per lakh population. However, India has just 137.
    • Inadequate Resources: The police forces face severe lack of resources in correspondence to complex duties they have to perform. The infrastructure when it comes to weaponry, vehicles has not been updated uniformly.
    • Poor Crime Investigation: Crime investigation requires skills and training, time and resources, and adequate forensic capabilities and infrastructure. Police do not have adequate training and expertise to conduct professional investigations.
    • Nexus of Politicians, Police and Criminals: The executive has been able to abuse Police’s power to manipulate the investigations as per their whims and fancies. The increasing criminalisation of politics has further eroded the level of policing attributable to an unholy level of nexus among criminals, politicians and police.
    • Accountability: The police because of lack of accountability have been abusing their power and suppressing the very people they are supposed to protect.
    • Corruption: Because of criminalisation of politics and lack of accountability there has been rampant corruption in the ranks and files of police.
    • Police-Public Distrust: There is a trust deficit among the public when it comes to the police who are often seen as corrupt, inefficient and politically partisan.
    • Gender inequity: There is no adequate representation of women in the police force thus negatively impacting investigations of women-related crimes.
    • Problem with Constabulary: The constables constitute 86% of the police forces and their duties also involve a certain amount of decision making and judgment for which they are not adequately skilled and trained.

    Need for Police Reforms

    • Archaic Law: The Police Act of 1861 was crafted in the wake of the 1857 revolt and was primarily an oppressive tool to tame the Indians.
    • Evolving Society: It has been more than 150 years now and the society now is entirely different from the times the Act was made, especially after independence.
    • Changing Expectations: The expectations of the public from the police forces have changed in entirety and what is required today is largely reformative policing and not retributive.
    • Complexity of Crimes: The character of the crimes has also changed entirely with the coming in of technology and other factors like white collar and sophisticated crimes.

    Efforts taken by the Government of India

    • A project to decriminalize minor offenses and violations and 
    • The move for amending the Identification of the Prisoners Act, 1920, a legislation that was passed more than a 100 years ago. 
    • The Prime Minister’s call for making the police a SMART force: standing for a force which is:
      • Strict and Sensitive, 
      • Modern and Mobile, 
      • Alert and Accountable, 
      • Reliable and Responsive, 
      • Tech-savvy and Trained.
    • The government is giving high priority to the greater use of technology in the day-to-day working of police. 
    • The Indian Police Foundation is taking efforts to realise the vision of a SMART Indian Police, especially by bringing internal reforms, technology adaptation, digital transformation and training to improve the professional and ethical standards of the police.

    Way Ahead 

    • Recommendations of Shah Commission of Inquiry
      • The government should seriously consider the viability and desirability of insulating the police from the politics of the country.
      • Employ the police personnel scrupulously on police duties that alone by law are intended to stop political interference. 
    • Recommendations of the National Police Commission:
      • The urgent need of the hour is to depoliticise the police and insulate it from extraneous pulls and pressures and re-emphasise the Supreme Court directives in Prakash Singh’s case.
    • It is high time to revamp the policing system in India and make it relevant with today’s crime and requisite investigation.

    National Police Commission

    • About the Commission: The Government of India established a committee under the chairmanship of former attorney general Soli Sorabjee to frame a Model Police Act
    • Aim: To enable the police to operate as an efficient, effective, people-friendly, and responsive agency. 
    • In general, the committee adhered to the precedent established by the Supreme Court in its Prakash Singh decision
    • The Government of India promised in Parliament that a Model Police Act based on the recommendations of the Sorabjee Committee would be introduced in the near future. 

    7 Directives of the Supreme Court (SC)

    • Limit political control: 
      • Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
    • Appoint based on merit: 
      • Ensure that the Director-General of Police is appointed through a merit-based, transparent process, and secures a minimum tenure of 2 years.
    • Fix minimum tenure: 
      • 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 with a minimum tenure of 2 years.
    • Separate police functions: 
      • Separate the functions of investigation and maintaining law and order.
    • Set up fair and transparent systems: 
      • Set up a Police Establishment Board to decide and make recommendations on transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
    • Establish a Police Complaints Authority in each state: 
      • At the state level, there should be a Police Complaints Authority to look into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody. 
      • At the district level, the Police Complaints Authority should be set up to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
    • Set up a selection commission: 
      • A National Security Commission needs to be set up at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of chiefs of the Central Police Organizations with a minimum tenure of 2 years.

    Source: IE