Dysfunction in the Indian Police Forces

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    Context 

    As India is celebrating 75 years of Independence, the police continue to be in the public gaze, most often for antagonistic reasons. 

    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.

    Foundation for an organised Police Force. 

    • The year 1861 was a turning point for the police in India
    • Background 
      • The process of drafting the IPC had begun much earlier in 1834, the revolt of 1857 gave a fillip to the drafting of the Police Act and laid the foundation for an organised police force. 
    • Objectives 
      • The main objective then was to use the police as a weapon of repression and strengthen the hold the British had over India.
        • The prevention (and detection) of crime was never their priority. 
        • Most of the constabulary was illiterate and not paid even a ‘living wage’. 

     Police Commission (1902-03)

    • Andrew H.L. Fraser, who headed the Police Commission (1902-03), concluded that the “police force is far from efficient; it is defective in training and organisation 
      • It is generally regarded as corrupt and oppressive; and it has utterly failed to secure the confidence and cordial cooperation of people”.
    • Recommendations : 
      • The Commission felt the urgent need of introducing radical reforms
        • Except for the introduction of the post of direct sub-inspectors (for police stations) and the rank of deputy superintendent of police for natives, not much was accepted and implemented by the Secretary of State on account of financial constraints.
        • The Commission was against the application of statistical tests to judge the work of police officers. 

    Various Reforms taken for  Criminal Justice System Since Independence 

    • The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 : It states that all persons found guilty of crimes that will not lead to life imprisonment or death penalty can be put on probation instead of being sentenced.
      • objective more to reform, rather than punish, offenders.
    •  Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in 1961: It was passed to check the social evil of dowry.
    • Changes in IPC
      • More revolutionary changes were made in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1983 and 1986 and by introducing Sections 498A (cruelty by husband and his relatives) and 304B (dowry death) along with certain amendments in the Evidence Act. 
      • The ‘sedition’ (Section 124A), which was brought into the IPC in 1870 to suppress the national movement, has recently been caged by the Supreme Court so that its constitutionality can be decided and its alleged misuse be curbed.
    • The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, was enacted in 1989.
    • The definition of rape has been widened and offences related to sexual assault made tougher. 
    • Children related 
      • Comprehensive laws such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, have been enacted. 
    • Cybercrime
      • Electronic documents and signatures have been given legal sanctity to facilitate online transactions and check cybercrime under the Information Technology Act of 2000. 
    • National security
      • The National Investigation Agency was constituted in 2008 (after the deadly 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai) to investigate and prosecute offences affecting national security. 
    • Fundamental rights
      • The constitutional courts have also made far-reaching contributions. By reading down Section 377 of the IPC, the Supreme Court granted relief to the LGBTQ+ community. 
      • Custodial torture and sexual harassment of women have been held to be violations of fundamental rights. 
      • The jurisprudence of providing compensation to victims of crime has evolved over time. 
      • The right to privacy has been recognised as a fundamental right. 
    • All these statutes have added a progressive and more humane chapter to the history of our criminal justice system.

    Issues /Challenges 

    • Attempts have been made to blend some elements of the inquisitorial system into the (prevalent) adversarial system by making judicial inquiry into custodial death and custodial rape mandatory and dig out the truth to punish the guilty.
      • However, the police continue to be haunted by allegations of being a brute force. 
    • The trust deficit does not appear to have bridged despite the power to arrest having been curtailed, the use of handcuffs restrained, the presence of a lawyer permitted during interrogation, CCTV cameras installed in the police stations, and human rights bodies allowed to keep a constant eye. 
    • Lawmakers are still reluctant and the judiciary apprehensive about making voluntary confessions before a police officer.
    • Despite ‘Police’ being a State subject, no State government has given due attention to police reforms so far. 
    • the District Superintendent of Police is unable to transfer his Station House Officers without the approval of the District Magistrate in U.P.; the performance appraisal report of a Superintendent of Police is still written by the District Magistrate in some States (including Chhattisgarh) despite the Supreme Court’s directions to the contrary; and 
    • The introduction of the police commissionerate system in metropolitan areas (as per the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code) is always resisted tooth and nail.

    Conclusion and Way Forward 

    • Some police reforms may require additional funding, much of the trust deficit can be bridged by improving soft skills and ensuring investigation in an impartial manner. 
    • Unwanted and mechanical arrests need to be stopped
    • More offences can be made bailable and more brought under the ambit of compounding to lighten the burden on jails.
    •  Most of it can be achieved through proper training. 
    • The use of technology and forensic techniques must be encouraged to enhance the quality of evidence. 
    • Specialised wings need to be established to deal with newer types of crime.
    • The police should be accountable only for their constitutional goal of establishing the rule of law. 

    Mains Practise Question 

    [Q] How can the role of  Police Forces  be strengthened in India? Discuss throwing light on the major constraints.