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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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POLICE REFORMS: A BUMPY ROAD - Sankar Sen, IPS

 
 


The Supreme Court's judgment in the case of Prakash Singh vs. Union of India (2006) is a historic one and marks a defining moment in the history of Indian Police. The apex court endorsed the view of National Police Commission (1978-81) that Indian Police has become the hand maiden of the political party in power and totally alienated from the people. It has also become professionally incompetent. The NPC after a careful study of the police work load could find that the police officers spend only thirty percent of their time in investigation of cases. And most of their time is devoted in VIP duties, court attendance and other miscellaneous chores. No wonder that their core functions, namely prevention and detection of crime, only get step-motherly attention. Perfunctory investigation by the police has drawn adverse comments from the courts in many cases. Police Investigation in the case of Dr. Vinayak Sen, prima facie appears to be slipshod and the life sentence imposed on him by the court is shocking and perverse.

For the improvement in the functioning of the criminal justice system, there is categorical need for systemic reforms in the police. The National Police Commission (better know as Dharam vira Commission) made sound practical recommendations for police reforms, which are relevant even today. Unfortunately, the Union Government deliberately took no steps to implement these recommendations. In fact, the report of the National Police Commission was put on a backburner. The Supreme Court stepped into the breach in 1996, when two former DGPs filed a PIL before the apex court, asking it to direct the State governments to implement the recommendations of the National Police Commission. It was argued that non-implementation of the recommendations of the NPC was adversely affecting the criminal justice administration in the country. The Supreme Court in 2006 issued, clear directives to the center and the states to implement the recommendations of the National Police Commission with a view to insulating the police from extraneous pressures and influence. The court took the view that time has come for issuance of appropriate directions for police reforms for immediate compliance till a Model Police Act is enacted by the central government.

The Seven point directives of the Supreme Court include:

  1. A fixed tenure for at least two years for Director General of Police (DGP) unless promoted or removed on disciplinary grounds. The Chief Minister will no longer be able to remove or transfer any inconvenient DGP and pick up a pliant officer of his choice.
  2. Separation of the law and order wing and investigation wing of the police.
  3. Setting up of a Police Establishment Board to decide on transfer, posting and service related matters of the officers up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police
  4. Setting up of State Security Commission in every state to insure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence and pressures on the police.
  5. Establishing a National Security Commission for selection and placements of chiefs of Central Police Organizations.
The cornerstone of police reforms directed by the apex court is the setting up of State Security Commission in every state to ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police. The State Security Commission will be headed by Home Minister or the Chief Minister, but the independence of the commission has sought to be ensured by the inclusion of the leader of opposition, a retired sitting judge and some important non-political citizens. The court has further ordered that a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) will be set up in every district headed by a retired judge to enquire into allegations of serious misconduct by the police. The judgment of the Supreme Court is historic. It will have significant impact on the administration of Indian Police in the coming years and may usher in a new dawn for the Indian police.

Unfortunately, many state governments are dragging their feet and trying to stonewall police reforms under various pretexts. They are not at all prepared to slacken their iron grip over the police with a view to misuse it for partisan ends. Majority of the states have averred that though the support the spirit of reforms, they object to many of the directives of the court. States like Gujarat, Nagaland, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh have questioned the raison detre of the State Security Commission. Some have also brazenly stated that they exert no unwarranted influence over the police. Many States have enacted new Police Acts. But the new acts that have been passed dilute the core systemic reforms prescribed by the Supreme Court. Some of the states have set up State Security Commissions but packed them with yes-men and excluded the leader of the opposition to deprive these bodies of a bi-partisan character. To retain political control over the police, they have indeed made some cosmetic changes and not meaningful systemic police reforms.

The Supreme Court, has however, cracked its whip over police reforms. It set up a three member monitoring committee with Justice K.T. Thomas, a former Supreme Court judge, as its chairperson. The committee examined the affidavits filed by different states regarding measures taken by them to implement the apex court's directives. It also examined the New Police Acts passed by some states after the Supreme Court's judgment of 2006 to find out if they are in keeping with the letter and spirit of the directives of the apex court. The monitoring committee in its report has castigated the non-compliance of the directives of the apex court by the states. The Police Complaint Authorities have not been created in most of the states that have enacted new laws. The Committee checked up the ground realties regarding the implementation of directives in respect of four states, namely, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal and Maharashtra and found that level of compliance of the Supreme Court's directives in these states is poor, if not dismal. It deplored the indifference displayed by the states and asked the Supreme Court to view seriously non-compliance of police reforms by the states.

The Supreme Court has taken the matter seriously. A bench headed by the Chief Justice adopted a no-non sense approach and chided West Bengal for putting the Health Minister as the head of the State Security Commission. The Bench also severely pulled up the government of UP for not segregating law and order and investigation wings of the police. Indeed the Supreme Court has taken up the implementation of its directives in a serious manner has said that its order will not remain in limbo. Time frames were given to states to report compliance of various points. Nevertheless, the path of police reforms is going to be bumpy .Political masters will try to scuttle meaningful reforms that will make police neutral and apolitical. Sustained campaign by senior police leaders, members of civil society and media is necessary to overcome their resistance and usher in much-needed police reforms.


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
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