Police Forces in India

The Present Scenario & The Exigency of Reform

Police Forces in India
Police Forces in India

Internal security of a country is a prerogative of police and to tackle the threats it is essential to have an efficient, effective & technologically sound police system. India is a country which suffers from major internal security threats and challenges. Here persist several threats from terrorism, religious fundamentalism, left wing extremism and also ethnic violence.

With the technological advancement, newer types of threats are arising every day in the form of bank frauds, cyber-attacks, organised crimes etc. which demands for constant vigilance and firm but sensitive tackling in a specialised manner. It’s a “fourth generation war”, as said by the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, – a warfare where army remains invisible and police officers are required to play the most critical and crucial role. Against such security threats, the police system remains the first line of defence. According to Doval, this is a type of war which cannot be won only with the help of armies. If the police wins, the country wins and if they lose then it’s a defeat for the country. Thus, there is exigency of reforming the Indian Police System in tune with present day scenario & upgrade it to effectively deal with the crimes & criminals, preserve the human rights and also safeguard the legitimate interests of the citizens.

The Present Scenario of Police Force in India

Under the Constitution of India, ‘Police’ is a subject under the ‘state list’. Therefore, each state has its own police force. The centre has its separate police force which also assists the states to ensure law and order as and when required. The centre thus maintains seven central police force apart from a few other police organizations for carrying out specialised tasks like intelligence gathering, researches, investigation, keeping records and providing training.

Maintaining the law and order, investigating the crimes & ensuring security to the citizens remains the primary role of the police forces. In a large & populous country like India, it is essential that the police force be well-equipped, with respect to personnel, forensic, weaponry, transport and communication support in order to perform their given task vehemently. Additionally, they need to have the freedom of operating freely so that they can carry out their responsibilities professionally and also get a satisfactory working condition
(e.g., promotional opportunities & regulated working hours), while holding them accountable for misuse of power and poor performance.

The existing police institution faces innumerable challenges and undergoes myriad deficiencies. The police organization faces several problems including infrastructural problems, working environment, out-dated weaponry & techniques of gathering and converging intelligence reports, deficiency in manpower and with all these remains the major problem of corruption. These problems depict the painful picture of the ‘first line of defence’ in internal security.

There has been a longstanding debate between the police superintendence and police control. According to the police laws, both the state and the central police forces come under the control and superintendence of the political executives. As a result, there has been a dearth of democratic functioning & appropriate direction. Day-by-day, the political interference over the working of police has been continuously increasing. The political interference takes its birth from the very lowest level; i.e. from the process of recruitment of police officials and then it moves on to the process of appointment to promotions to postings and transfers. The senior police officials are often pressurised by the politicians to act in accordance with their whims & fancies like as if the police officials are there puppet. For instance, the politicians often pressurise the senior officials to release convicted criminals on parole so that they (the criminals) can help them in participating in elections. The subordinates are in turn pressurised by the senior police officials in doing the same. In case any official denies fulfilling the absurd wishes of the political honchos, they are rewarded with transfers, suspensions and humiliations. Thus, in order to escape from such incidents, officials unwillingly adopt some means & measures which might not always be correct, but only to the orders from the politicians. This results to misconduct among the policemen and subsequently are highly criticised by the public and the media. However, in contrast to this, when policemen do something worthy of appreciation or achieves something exceptional, they are hardly highlighted or appreciated. This puts down their morale. The thought that pinches them is no matter how good they work; they would never be appreciated – and then what is need of being honest & sincere – and this increases the rate of corruption among the police which brings in more criticism. Thus, there is need to bring in such reform which would wipe out such fears, pressures and tensions from the mind of the police officials and allow them to work efficiently to keep the society safe and secure. At this front, another thing that needs attention is that there is no such grievance registering mechanism against erring police officials. Therefore, as recommended by the Second Administrative Reform Commission & also the Supreme Court of India, there is also a need to have an independent complaint authority which would inquire into the cases of police misconduct.

Next comes the infrastructural issues. The existing infrastructure of the police organization is inadequate to cater to the requirements of the police force. There has been an acute shortage of manpower within the police department which results in overburdening of the task and reduction in efficiency and effectiveness in their work besides bring in psychological distress among the policemen. UN recommends having 222 policemen per lakh population whereas in India there are 192 policemen per lakh population which is almost 15% less than the recommendation. Surprisingly, after having the vacancies adjusted, the actual strength of police stands at 137 policemen per lakh population. To worsen the matters, reports show that most of the police staff has to remain on duty for more than 11 hours per day and are also unable to avail their weekly offs even for once in a month. But this is not the end, the police staffs are often recalled to duty during their off times for dealing with emergency situations, VIP duties or other works. Thus, these vacancies need to be urgently filled up so as to improve the police-population ratio, make it closer to the international standards and reduce the work burden & psychological distress.

Another issue relates to the weapons that the police machinery uses. Most of the weapons used by the policemen have become obsolete & out-dated. The Comptroller and Auditor General had highlighted in its report that the force continues to rely on out-dated & unserviceable weapons. One reason for this is obviously slow acquisition process of weapons from the ordnance factories. Additionally, it was also found that even when weapons were procured, instead of distributing them to the police stations, they are kept idle at one place. Hence, modernization is not only essential in the Armed Forces but also in police machinery.

Likewise, there has been a shortage of police vehicles which impede smooth mobility of police. According to the CAG report, increment in availability of vehicles is very little and even if new vehicles are procured, they are used as a replacement of the old vehicles. Moreover, there is also a shortage of drivers. This increases the response time and compromises the swiftness of action of the police force.

Next comes the issues with communication network. In the era of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) the police system still struggles to have proper communication network system. A 2017 report from the Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D) revealed that there were still 51 such police stations across the country which neither had telephone nor wireless sets. Further, according to a report from the CAG, the Police Telecommunication Network (POLNET) – a satellite based communication network used to investigate crimes and transmit crime related data, is non-operational in certain states. The CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System) was anticipated to link each and every police station in the country. However, there are several police stations across the country that is yet to implement the project. Moreover, there are huge vacancies in the key segments of radio operators & technicians, needed for operating the equipment.

Simultaneously, the institution also suffers from its age-old process of recruitment. The acquisition of police personnel, from the lowest constabulary level to the Sub-Inspector level, remains medieval. During trainings, the major focus in given on improving the physical strengths and thereby ignoring the essential skills like cyber-crime, law, forensics, financial frauds etc. Though focus is given on physical training, the percentage of personnel trained remains very low in most of the states. Additionally, the infrastructure for proper training remains inadequate and major deficiencies were reported in weapon training.

Another key issue remains the underutilization of modernisation funds allocated by both the centre & the state governments for modernising the state police forces. The funds are allocated for the purpose of strengthening police infrastructure by way of purchasing weapons, construction of police stations, procuring communication equipment & vehicles. However, the allocated budget for modernization persistently remains underutilized. According to reports, total budget allocated to police across all states and union territories for the year 2016-17 was ?113,379.42 crore, out of which only ?90,662.94 crore was used. Thus, optimum utilization of allocated modernization fund is also an essential need of the hour.

A Brief History of Police Reforms in India

The panacea to the above problems & limitations of the Police institution is the dire need to have reforms in the existing system – which has been a longstanding debate with no results. Over the years, several attempts have been made for reforming the India Police system at both central and state level. Since 1971, six major committees were constituted by different governments in bring in reforms.

These include:-

 

Committee Year Synopsis
The Gore Committee on Police Training 1971-1973 Established to review the training of state police from the level of constabulary to IPS. Made 186 recommendations out of which 45 were related to police reforms. Recommendations related to police training were mostly implemented whereas reforms related to structure of police system were over looked.
The Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms 1998 Established on the order of the Supreme Court of India following a PIL on police reforms. It had proposed 5 major recommendations over state security; selection of the DGP; complaint against police. None of the recommendations were implemented.
The Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms 2000 It inspected recruitment, training and duties of police force; behaviour of police officers; police investigation & prosecution. In other words, it dealt with issues related to politicization & criminalization of police and its accountability.

It proposed 99 actionable recommendations – 54 were implemented by the Centre and the rest were needed to be implemented by the States.

The Group of Ministers on National Security 2000-2001 It focused on four sections – i) the intelligence system; ii) internal security; iii) border management and; iv) defence management. It made 62 recommendations to be carried out partly by centre and partly by states.
The Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System 2001-2003 It dealt with issues relating to criminal justice system, judiciary, investigation, prosecution, crime & punishment. It made 158 observations & recommendations – 55 out of those were major recommendations. 42 recommendations were implemented by the centre while 26 remained to be implemented by the state governments.
National Police Commission (NPC) 1977-1981 NPC reviewed the India Police system comprehensively. It drafted 8 reports in four years where 291 recommendations were suggested on police reforms.

The First Report dealt with issues related to constabulary & administration such as grievance redressal mechanism, housing, pay-structure etc. Here, 28 recommendations were suggested.

The Second Report addressed issues related to welfare of police families and measures for avoiding political & executive pressure. Here, 33 recommendations were suggested.
The Third Report concentrated on matters related to police force & weaker sections of the society, economic offences, corruption in police, village police and also modernization. Here, 54 recommendations were suggested on ways to combat corrupted policemen, guidelines to arrests, posting of Section House Officers and Superintendent of Police.

The Fourth Report focused on issues relating to investigation, trial & prosecution; industrial or agrarian issues; social legislation & prohibition. Here, suggestions dealt with registration of FIRs; statement recording of witnesses; arrests; remand; and confession amongst others.

The Fifth Report aimed at issues related to recruitment of constables & sub-inspectors; district police & magistracy; training of police personnel; women police and; police public relations. Here, 27 recommendations were suggested.

The Sixth Report attended to the issues pertaining to IPS, police & students; urban policing & communal riots. Here, 23 recommendations were suggested.

The Seventh Report concentrated on the organisational and structural needs of the police, district armed reserves & state armed police battalions; delegation of financial powers to the police officers; traffic regulation; role of centre in planning & coordination and evaluation; policing in North-East India; disciplinary control. Here, 60 recommendations were suggested.

The Eight Report dealt with accountability of performance of police. Here, 7 recommendations were made.

The reforms proposals have mainly concentrated over the symptoms of crisis rather than addressing the problems sourced from its structure & design. Post-independence, there was an urgent need of reforming the police system and thus many states had established their own police commissions. However, the recommendations suggested by the different committees were mostly ignored and were not implemented. Hence, despite the recommendations, no substantial changes were traced. In the a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh & Others v. Union of India Case of 2006, the court instructed to comply with its seven-point directives to the Centre & State governments to start reforms in the police system. The seven directives were:-

  • Constitute a State Security Commission based on the recommendation of the Reberio Committee or the National Human Rights Commission or the Sorabjee Committee;
  • Select the Director General of Police (DGP) of the State government from amongst the three most senior officers of the Department and confer him a minimum tenure of two years.
  • Police officers on operational duties must be prescribed a minimum tenure two years;
  • Separation of investigating police officer from the law & order police officer so as to ensure faster and better investigation;
  • Institute a Police Establishment Board at state level which shall take decisions of transfer, promotion, posting and other service related issues of officers of & below the rank of DSPs;
  • Instituting Police Complaint Authorities at both State & District level to look into the complaints against police officers;
  • A National Security Commission must be set up by the Central government at the Union level for preparing a panel that would be placed before the appropriate Appointing Authority, for the purpose of selection & placement of Chiefs of the CPOs (Central Police Organisations) who would also be a given a minimum tenure of two years.

However, these directives are yet to see the light of the day. This reflects adamant attitude on the part of bureaucracy and lack of political wiliness for implementing the order. It is hence clear that neither the bureaucrats nor the politicians want to lose their dominance from over the police. Astonishingly, this issue on lack of clarity can even be found in the The Police Act of 1861 – it also remained silent on general control & directions and superintendence. This facilitates the executives to chop the police to mere tools and handover them in the hands of the political honchos so that they can succeed in fulfilling their vested interest.

Conclusion

The society has undergone several changes both politically and economically over the decades, but almost negligible transformations can be found in the Indian Police System. The above-mentioned challenges require immediate scrutiny and assistance from the Central government as well State governments. The Ministers and the political honchos must comprehend that the dilapidated state of the police system will bring negative impact on the internal security & integrity of the nation. Therefore, immediate measures need to be taken improvise & modernise the Indian Police Act which has never been anatomized. Broadly, reforms are required at three fronts –

  • Enhancement in infrastructure and capacity of police forces;
  • Legislative & Administrative reforms;
  • Technological scaling-up which includes modernization.

This is high time to develop a new police system in India which shall ensure greater efficiency, effectiveness and accountability and simultaneously will also provide independence to the police from the clutches of political leaders and transform it to ‘People’s Police from Ruler’s Police’.

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