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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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by Shanker Sen

The new federal agency for the investigation of terrorism can act effectively only if the personnel are efficient, writes Sankar Sen

The Mumbai carnage is a watershed in the countrys troubled history of dealing with terrorism. It heralded the advent of catastrophic terrorism. The terrorists displayed skill, sophistication and ruthlessness, and caused devastation on an unprecedented scale. At long last the country has woken up to the dire threat it faces from global jihadi terrorism. The Indian Parliament, with a rare display of unity among the political parties, has now passed laws to create the National Investigation Agency to investigate cases anywhere in the country relating to terrorist violence. It has also passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008, which provides more teeth to the earlier act. The Statement of Objects and Reasons for the National Investigation Agency Act of 2008 clearly states, ...over the past several years India has been the victim of large scale terrorism sponsored across the borders. The need for setting up an agency relating to terrorism and certain other acts, which have national ramifications, has long been felt.

Several experts and committees, including the administrative reforms commission in its report, have also made recommendations for establishing such an agency. These measures are, though belated, necessary to combat the monstrous phenomenon of terrorism. It does not require much clairvoyance to predict that serious terrorist violence will continue to rock the country with greater intensity in the coming days.

However, a federal investigating agency and stringent anti-terrorist laws will not be of much avail unless there are competent and efficient police officers and men to man the NIA and vigorously investigate terrorist crimes. Unfortunately, the hard fact is that the police all over the country have become thoroughly unprofessional and politicized. Constant extraneous pressure and interference in the recruitment, transfer and posting of police officers and men have worked havoc with the forces efficiency and professionalism. All this has corroded the morale of the force.

Section 3 of the Police Act, 1961 provides that the superintendence of police throughout the general police district shall be exercised by the state government. This provision of the act has been utilized unabashedly by the state authorities to meddle in the day-to-day working of the police. There is constant interference in the posting, transfer, promotion and punishment of the officers. Upright officers are either marginalized or bullied into submission. The superintendents of police in the districts have very little say in the transfer and posting of officers in the police station. Sub-inspectors in many police stations pay money regularly to members of the legislative assembly to continue in their posts. This has snapped the chain of command and control within the force. The rule of law in modern India, as David H. Bayle, a perceptive American scholar has put it, has been undermined by the rule of politics. Supervision in the name of democracy has eroded the foundation upon which impartiality depends in the criminal justice system.

The maladies of the police force are manifold. The process of recruitment of police officers and men in many states has now become a scandal. A large number of men join the service by paying hefty bribes. Irregularities in recruitment procedure include the waiving of police verification to recruiting people with criminal records, the forging of examination papers and of caste certificates, and the changing of laid-down procedures and criteria for the selection of candidates. Political bosses in different states are involved in this sordid game and there are no visible efforts to set things right. Police training institutions in most of the states are in bad shape and have become the dumping-grounds of demoralized instructors who impart to the trainees negative views and perceptions.

Politicians interference in the police system encourages police personnel to believe that their advancement in service does not depend upon the merits of their professional performance but is to be secured by currying favour with the politicians who count. A study on the image of the police in India was conducted some years back by the Indian Institute of Public Opinion at the instance of the ministry of home affairs. It revealed that political interference is seen by the public as a major factor contributing to the poor image of the police. For the people, political interference with the police is a greater evil than corruption. It is evident that political interference is more pronounced in rural than in urban areas.

In his address to the nation after the Mumbai massacre, the prime minister rightly emphasized that police reforms have to be implemented without any further delay. He had in mind structural reforms in the police recommended by the national police commission, known as the Dharam Vira Commission. Among its key recommendations was the need to insulate the investigation wing of the police from external political pressures with a view to ensuring freedom in the operational functions of the police administration. The need to remove the Damocles sword of transfer constantly dangling over the heads of chiefs of police of different states was also mentioned, along with a suggestion that they should be assured of a statutory tenure after proper and careful selection. Another recommendation was for the constitution of a state security commission to help the state government effectively discharge its superintending responsibility under the framework of law.

In its report, the National Human Rights Commission, while roundly castigating the police for violation of human rights, strongly endorsed the core recommendation of the NPC to insulate the police from extraneous pressures and influence. A former Union home minister, Indrajit Gupta, in a letter to all the chief ministers in April, 1997, clearly stated that the deficiency in the functioning of the police in our country has arisen largely due to an overdose of unhealthy and petty political interference at various levels. He urged the chief ministers to introduce the reforms recommended by the NPC. All the chief ministers, including the chief minister of the state he belonged to, ignored the letter.

Now the Supreme Court, in a path-breaking decision in the case of Prakash Singh Vs. Union of India, has given clear directives to the Centre and the state governments to implement the core police reforms recommended by the NPC in order to insulate the police from extraneous pressures and influence. The seven point directive of the Supreme Court include a fixed tenure of the state director general of police, separation of the investigative wing from the law and order wings, the setting up of a police establishment board to decide on transfers, posting and service-related matters of officers up to the rank of deputy superintendent of police, and the setting up of a new security commission in every state so that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.

The independence of the security commission has been sought to be ensured by the inclusion of the leader of the Opposition, a retired or sitting high court judge and some important non-political citizens. It will also act as a forum of appeal for the disposal of representations of police officers of the rank of superintendents of police and above if they are subjected to illegal or irregular orders in the performance of their duties.

But the Centre and the states are dragging their feet and trying to scuttle police reforms in various ways. As the existing arrangement suits the political masters, there is stubborn rearguard action to circumvent reform. However, it is hoped that in the present grim scenario, police reforms will be implemented without any delay so that the country gets an apolitical, efficient and revamped police force to face the challenges from the forces of disruption and destabilization. It is necessary for civil society to press the demand for an upright, efficient and depoliticized police force. There can be no further delay.

The author is a former member of the IPS and was director-general, National Human Rights Commission


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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