Police Reforms in India

- BhuneshwariDevi, Adv.

The first ever attempt to find out what was wrong with the policing system in India took place in 1977. However nothing much has happened since then.  In the year 2006, in Prakash Singh case, the Supreme Court commented that considering the far reaching changes that had taken place in the country after the enactment of the Indian Police Act, 1861 and absence of any comprehensive review at the national level of the police system after independence despite radical changes in the political, social and economic situation in the country, the government of India, on 15th November, 1977, appointed a National Police Commission. The commission was appointed for fresh examination of the role and performance of the police both as a law enforcing agency and as an institution to protect the rights of the citizens enshrined in the Constitution. The terms and reference of the Commission were wide ranging. The terms of reference, inter alia, required the Commission to redefine the role, duties, powers and responsibilities of the police with special reference to prevention and control of crime and maintenance of public order, evaluate the performance of the system, identify the basic weaknesses or inadequacies, examine if any changes necessary in the method of administration, disciplinary control and accountability, inquire into the system of investigation and prosecution, the reasons for delay and failure and suggest how the system may be modified or changed and made efficient, scientific and consistent with human dignity, examine the nature and extent of the special responsibilities of the police towards the weaker sections of the community and suggest steps and to ensure prompt action on their complaints for the safeguard of their rights and interests. Supreme Court issued the following directions to the Central Government, State Governments and Union Territories for compliance till framing of the appropriate legislations:

State Security Commission

(1) The State Governments were directed to constitute a State Security Commission in every State to ensure that the State Government do not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the State police. The Commission was also required for laying down the broad policy guidelines so that the State police always act according to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country. This watchdog body, the Court directed,should be headed by the Chief Minister or Home Minister as Chairman and have the DGP of the State as its ex-officioSecretary. The other members of the Commission should be chosen in such a manner that it is able to function independent of Government control. For this purpose, the State may choose any of the models recommended by the National Human Rights Commission, the Ribeiro Committee or the Sorabjee Committee. Such recommendations of this Commission should be binding on the State Government. The functions of the State Security Commission would include laying down the broad policies and giving directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service oriented functions of the police, evaluation of the performance of the State police and preparing a report thereon for being placed before the State legislature.

Selection and Minimum Tenure of DGP:

(2) The Court also directed that the Director General of Police of the State should be selected by the State Government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the Department who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force. Once he has been selected for the job, he should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation. The DGP may, however, be relieved of his responsibilities by theState Government acting in consultation with the State Security Commission consequent upon any action taken against him under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules or following his conviction in a court of law in a criminaloffence or in a case of corruption, or if he is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his duties.

Minimum Tenure of I.G. of Police & other officers:

(3) Similarly, the Court also directed that Police Officers on operational duties in the field like the Inspector General of Police in-charge Zone, Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge Range, Superintendent of Police in-charge district and Station House Officer in-charge of a Police Station should also have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years unless it is found necessary to remove them prematurely following disciplinary proceedings against them or their conviction in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption or if the incumbent is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his responsibilities. This would be subject to promotion and retirement of the officer.

Separation of Investigation:

(4) The Supreme Court suggested that the investigating police should be separated from the law and order police toensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.It must, however, be ensured that there is full coordination between the two wings.The separation, to start with, may be effected in towns/urban areas which have a population of ten lakhs or more, and gradually extended to smaller towns/urban areas also.

Police Establishment Board:

(5) For decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, the Court also suggested to have a Police Establishment Board in each State. The Establishment Board shall be a departmental body comprising the Director General of Police and four other senior officers of the Department. The State Government may interfere with decision of the Board in exceptional cases only after recording its reasons for doing so. The Board should also be authorized to make appropriate recommendations to the State Government regarding the posting and transfers of officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police, and the Government is expected to give due weight to these recommendations and shall normally accept it. It shall also function as a forum of appeal for disposing of representations from officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above regarding their promotion/transfer/disciplinaryproceedings or their being subjected to illegal or irregular orders and generally reviewing the functioning of the police in the State.

Police Complaints Authority:

(6) In order to address the complaints against the Police Officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, there must be a Police Complaints Authority at the district level, the Court suggested. Similarly, there should be another Police Complaints Authority at the State level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above. The district level Authority may be headed by a retired District Judge while the State level Authority may be headed by a retired Judge of the High Court/Supreme Court. The head of the State level Complaints Authority should be chosen by the State Government out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice.The head of the district level Complaints Authority may also be chosen out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice or a Judge of the High Court nominated by him. These Authorities may be assisted by three to five members depending upon the volume of complaints in different States/districts, and they shall be selected by the State Government from a panel prepared by the State HumanRights Commission/LokAyukta/State Public Service Commission. The panel may include members from amongst retired civil servants, police officers or officers from any other department, or from the civil society. They would work whole time for the Authority and would have to be suitably remunerated for the services rendered by them. The Authority may also need the services of regular staff to conduct field inquiries. For this purpose, they may utilize the services of retired investigators from the CID, Intelligence, Vigilance or any other organization. The State level ComplaintsAuthority would take cognizance of only allegations of serious misconduct by the police personnel, which would include incidents involving death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody. The district level Complaints Authority would, apart from above cases, may also inquire into allegations of extortion, land/house grabbing or any incident involving serious abuse of authority. The recommendations of the Complaints Authority, both at the district and State levels, for any action, departmental or criminal, against a delinquent police officer shall be binding on the concerned authority.

National Security Commission:

(7) The Court directed the Central Government also to set up a National Security Commission at theUnion level to prepare a panel for being placed before the appropriate Appointing Authority, for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO), who/should also be given a minimum tenure of two years. The Commission would also review from time to time measures to upgrade the effectiveness of these forces, improve the service conditions of its personnel, ensure that there is proper coordination between them and that the forces are generally utilized for the purposes they were raised and make recommendations in that behalf.

Implementation of the these orders of supreme court orders is yet to be seen though these suggestion were made in the year 2006 but till today most of the recommendation has to see the light of the day.

The author is an Advocate based in Port Blair and is also the founder of the Human Rights Foundation, a unit of Wooden House Society, which works for the benefit of women, tribal and unprivileged class of the Society.