India’s Need for Humane Policing


    In Context

    • Recently, concern was expressed about the degree of human rights violations in police stations in the country.

    Issue of inhumane policing

    • The history of policing in many countries is pockmarked by episodes of excesses
      • The U.S. is one country which has had far too many instances of police torture. 
      • In contrast, police handling of the public is more civilised in most of Europe, including the U.K.
    • Global issue:
      • Against the known instances of police brutality across the globe, we can safely assume that a large number of cases of torture have also gone unreported
      • This largely constitutes assaults on women
      • Only about 10% of complaints are believed to have been registered. 
      • Also, only a small percentage of the offenders have been convicted.
    • India’s case:
      • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data reveal that though the number of custodial deaths varies year to year, on average of about 100 custodial deaths have taken place every year between 2010 and 2019. Of them, 
        • About 3.5 persons allegedly died due to injuries caused by policemen
        • 8.6 while escaping from custody
        • 28.1 due to suicide, and 
        • The rest is due to various reasons like illness and injuries caused in road accidents. 
      • A judicial inquiry, which is mandatory for every suspicious custodial death, was conducted in 26.4 cases

    Reasons for Police Excesses

    • Stress & pressure on Police force:
      • Police excesses are continuously on the rise because the stress that an average policeman is subjected to from his higher-ups has not abated. 
      • The pressure to produce results has been on the rise. 
      • Our country has large police forces. To disseminate the message of ethics to the bottom of such large outfits is a gargantuan task.
    • Misconception of physical force:
      • Many in the political firmament subscribe to the philosophy that without physical force on misbehaving citizens, the quality of policing cannot improve and law and order cannot be maintained.
      • They have unabashedly preached the use of third-degree and extra-legal methods to the problem of solving crime. 
    • Demand for quick confession:
      • One of the alleged reasons for using extreme methods is to extract a quick confession from the suspect. 
      • Though the total police force has increased in the last five years, the civil police mostly remain overstretched. 


    • Ethics during training:
      • The question is whether solid training in ethics at the time of induction could smoothen the rough edges of a recruit. 
      • It is preposterous to believe that inputs in ethics during training will last long. The pressures in the field are so enormous that the impact of ethics evaporates quickly.
    • Top-to-bottom indoctrination:
      • It is here that the DGPs and IGPs have a crucial role in indoctrinating young recruits on the value of sticking to the law and civilised behaviour.
    • Sending strong directions:
      • It should be clearly noted that “No illegal physical treatment of crime suspects will be tolerated and that such behaviour will be subjected to a clinical and credible enquiry by an independent authority”.
      • Deaths in police custody are indeed a matter of grave concern. Each such death must be seriously inquired into, to unravel the truth. 
    • Reducing arrests:
      • The foremost measure to reduce instances of custodial violence is to reduce the number of arrests. 
      • The law on arrest says that arrest for offences punishable up to seven years of imprisonment should be made only when the police officer is satisfied that such arrest is necessary to prevent the person from tampering with evidence, to prevent the person from committing any further offence, etc. 

    Various recommendations

    • Separating investigations from law & order:
      • The National Police Commission (1977-81), the Law Commission in its 154th report (1996) and the Malimath Committee Report (2003), among others, and the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh v. Union of India (2006), have recommended that the investigating police should be separated from the law-and-order police to ensure better expertise in the investigation. 
        • It is believed that a separate wing will do a more professional investigation and will not use unwarranted methods to extract a confession from the accused. 
        • Though efforts have been made by some States in this direction, more resources are required in policing to implement the Court’s directions.
    • Guidelines by the apex court:
      • In the judgment in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1996), the Supreme Court laid down guidelines to check custodial torture and increase the transparency and responsibility of the police officer effecting arrest. 
      • Most of these guidelines such as providing information to a friend or relative about the arrest, medical examination, and permission to meet a lawyer have now been incorporated in the CrPC. 
      • Investigating officers mostly comply with them.
    • Covering police stations under CCTVs:
      • In Paramvir Singh v. Baljit Singh (2020), the Supreme Court has directed States to cover more areas of each police station under CCTV cameras and have storage facilities for audio-video recording for 18 months.

    Way ahead

    • Custodial death is perhaps one of the worst crimes in a civilised society governed by the rule of law. The guilty, therefore, must be punished severely for his misconduct and criminal act. 
    • The police officers must know that their mandate is to protect human rights and not violate them. Our commitment to the protection of human rights is unconditional and total. 
      • They need to be sensitised regularly and encouraged to employ scientific tools of interrogation and investigation.
      • Many steps have been taken so far to check custodial violence and no stone shall be left unturned to eliminate such violence in toto.

    Police Reforms

    • Supreme Court’s Prakash Singh judgement on police reforms: 
      • In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court in September 2006 had directed all states and Union Territories to bring in police reforms.
        • The ruling issued a series of measures that were to be undertaken by the governments to ensure the police could do their work without worrying about any political interference.
      • Fixing the tenure and selection of the DGP:
        • Fixing the tenure and selection of the DGP to avoid situations where officers about to retire in a few months are given the post. 
        • In order to ensure no political interference, a minimum tenure was sought for the Inspector General of Police so that they are not transferred mid-term by politicians. 
      • Police Establishment Boards (PEB):
        • The SC further directed postings of officers being done by Police Establishment Boards (PEB) comprising police officers and senior bureaucrats to insulate powers of postings and transfers from political leaders
      • State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA):
        • There was a recommendation of setting up the State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) to give a platform which common people aggrieved by police action could approach. 
      • State Security Commissions (SSC):
        • The SC directed the separation of investigation and law and order functions to improve policing better, setting up of State Security Commissions (SSC) that would have members from civil society and forming a National Security Commission.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] What are the reasons for Police excesses in India? What are the recommendations given by various government bodies to prevent them?