Atrocities by Police in India: Police Reforms


    In News

    • The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is in favour of forming special panels to probe ‘atrocities’ by police in India.


    • The CJI said he was in favour of forming standing committees headed by the Chief Justices of the High Courts to investigate complaints received from the common man of “atrocities” committed by the bureaucracy, especially police officers, in the country.
    • The observation came when the court was reserving judgment on petitions filed by the suspended Additional Director General of Police in Chhattisgarh. 
      • He had sought protection from arrest in various criminal cases, including sedition, extortion and criminal intimidation, arraigned against him by the current government.

    Police System in India

    • Constitutional provisions:
      • Police is an exclusive subject under the State List (List II, Schedule 7 of the Constitution).
      • However, the centre is also allowed to maintain its own police forces to assist the states with ensuring law and order
      • The present Indian police system is largely based on the Police Act of 1861.
      • After independence, some states came out with their own police acts, for example, Bombay Police Act, 1951, the Kerala police act 1960, Delhi police act 1978.

    Image Courtesy: PRS 

    • Duty of Police:
      • Primary Duty:
        • Maintain Law and Order.
        • Keep Internal Security.
        • Criminal Investigation.
      • Secondary Duty:
        • Police involved in the VVIP movement.
      • But it is often seen that the primary duty of police becomes secondary and vice-versa because of police and political connections and interference.


    Issues with Police System in India

    • Colonial Law: 
      • Even at present, the police system in India is based on colonial law.
      • Sometimes the British used the police as their instrument to suppress the voice of people and for their personal functions and at present our respected government is doing the same.
    • Huge vacancies:
      • While the sanctioned police strength was 181 police per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137 police.
      • This is way too low when compared with the United Nations’ recommended standard of 222 police per lakh persons.
      • Further, a high percentage of vacancies within the police forces exacerbates an existing problem of overburdened police personnel.
    • Custodial Death: 
      • There are many cases on custodial death means Death by torture/pressure in police/judicial custody. 
      • During 1996-1997 in D.K.Basu judgement, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a guideline against custodial death in India.
    • Police Infrastructure (weapons, vehicle etc)
      • Modern policing requires strong communication support, state-of-the-art or modern weapons, and a high degree of mobility.
      • Even the fund’s allotted face Underutilisation.
    • Law on Torture: 
      • India has only signed the “United Nation Convention on torture” but yet to pass by the Parliament. 
      • India does not have a specific law for torture.
    • Political Interference: 
      • Police officers are not able to do their work due to the interference of political leaders. 
      • There is no minimum tenure security for officers at the higher post and not even place posting security.
    • Promotions and working conditions: 
      • Qualifications and training of police personnel are not up to the mark, especially for lower levels of officials.
      • The lower ranks of police personnel are often verbally abused by their superiors or they work in inhuman conditions.
      • This non-harmonious work environment ultimately affects their relationship with the public.
    • Structural issue: 
      • Police constables hired in the class 4 category are expected to use modern scientific technology without proper administration of training.


    Police Reforms

    • Meaning: 
      • Police reforms aim to transform the values, culture, policies and practices of police organizations so that police can perform their duties with respect for democratic values, human rights and the rule of law.
      • It also aims to improve how the police interact with other parts of the security sector, such as the courts and departments of corrections, or executive, parliamentary or independent authorities with management or oversight responsibilities.
    • History:
      • The police reforms were introduced in the pre-independence era by the British government in 1902-1903. 
      • After independence, in 1977, the Indian government set up a committee “National Police Commission”. This was the first committee at the national level set up by the Indian government to report on policing. 
      • The NPC produced eight reports between 1979 and 1981, suggesting wide-ranging reforms in the existing police setup.
      • One of the most important recommendations is about the Model Police Act but it was not accepted by the government. 
      • In 1996 one former DGP of Uttar Pradesh filed public interest litigation in the Supreme Court and demanded police reforms. 
      • In a landmark judgment, Prakash Singh Case, the Supreme Court in September 2006 had directed all States and Union Territories to bring in police reforms. 
      • In this judgment, the Supreme Court directed States and Union Territories to comply with seven binding directives which would kick-start the reforms.
      • Post-2006: Supreme Court created Justice Thomas Committee to review the seven directives (stated by Supreme Court).
      • In 2012-2013 Justice J.S. Verma committee was constituted to recommend amendments to the criminal law so as to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminally accused of committing sexual assault against women – after nirbhaya scandal. 
        • This committee has recommended certain steps to reform the police, which include the establishment of the State Security Commission to ensure that the state government does not influence the state police, which should be headed by the Chief Minister or Home Minister and also stated the seven directives of the Supreme Court.

    Image Courtesy: PRS 

    7 Directives of the 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.

    NITI Aayog suggested the following reforms:

    • State-level legislative reforms:
      • States should be encouraged, with fiscal incentives, to introduce ‘The Model Police Act of 2015’ as it modernizes the mandate of the police.
    • Administrative and operational reform:
      • A Task Force must be created under the MHA to identify non-core functions that can be outsourced to save on manpower and help in reducing the workload of the police.
      • Functions such as serving court summons and antecedents and addresses verification for passport applications or job verifications can be outsourced to private agents or government departments.
      • The states should be encouraged to ensure that the representation of women in the police force is increased.
      • India should launch a common nationwide contact for attending to the urgent security needs of the citizens.
      • NITI Aayog also suggests moving police as well as public order to the Concurrent List to tackle increasing inter-state crime and terrorism under a unified framework.

    Way Ahead

    • At this time, India needs an act that can make police friendly to the public.
    • The government must introduce such measures which allow the people to raise their voices against the injustice done by the police administration.

    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. 
      • For example, Beat Constables are required to know at least one family member of every family living in his beat area and allocate some time to meet with people outside the police station every week. 
      • Janamaithri Suraksha Committees are also formed with municipal councillors, representatives of residents’ associations, local media, high schools and colleges, retired police officers, etc. to facilitate the process.
    • 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. 
      • They light their torches and go around the basti guarding the entry and exit points, to prevent the youth of the area from going out after sunset.


    Source: TH