Police Reforms in India

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    In News

    • Recently, the Vice President of India called for renewed thrust to implement reforms in police forces.

    Key Points

    • The Vice President emphasised that a progressive, modern India must have a police force which meets the democratic aspirations of the people.
    • Skill up-gradation with modern requirements: There is a need to upgrade the skills of our policemen to effectively tackle 21st century crimes such as cybercrimes and economic offences which require special investigative expertise due to their sophisticated and often transboundary nature.

    History of Policing in India

    • After the revolt of 1857, the British created a police force with the prime aim of upholding their imperial interests.
    • They used the police to mainly suppress and oppress freedom fighters and revolutionaries during the freedom struggle.
    • Over the years following Independence, the police force was seen as being elitist and power-friendly, instead of being seen as a people-friendly force. 
    • Misuse of Policing: 
      • During the emergency, it was used with impunity to suppress human rights and imprison thousands of people, including all the political opponents of the ruling dispensation. 
    • National Police Commission:
      • Subsequently, a National Police Commission was set up in 1977, which submitted reports with detailed multi-dimensional proposals for police reforms.
      • Not much headway has been made in bringing reforms in police forces at the individual and institutional level.

    Image Courtesy: PRS 

    Efforts taken by the Government of India

    • A number of initiatives taken by the Government of India toward better policing, including
      • A project to decriminalise minor offences 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.

    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 modernises the mandate of the police.
    • Administrative and operational reforms:
      • 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.

    Issues in Police Forces

    • 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 judgment, 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.

    Way Ahead

    • Police reforms should be done with the mandate to uphold law and order in the country and to sustain India’s economic growth.
    • Policing is a state subject and it is the states that have to lead this drive towards police reforms. 
    • Strengthening the police infrastructure in tune with the requirements of modern age policing. The housing facilities of police personnel to be improved.
    • Strengthening the police force at the grassroots, who are the first responders in most cases. 
    • There is a need for speedy disposal of criminal cases against politicians and civil servants to retain people’s trust in the system. 
    • The behaviour of policemen towards the common man should be courteous and friendly, open-minded, sensitive and receptive to each individual citizen’s concerns.

    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: PIB