The article discuss about the 10 years of pending police reforms even after Supreme Court’s 7 directives in Prakash Singh case.
- The 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Prakash Singh case should be a reason to look back with pride at the court’s seven directions in its September 22, 2006, verdict aimed at propelling police reform.
- The judgement was intended — but perhaps not expected — to kick-start police reform.
- On paper, the directions pull together recommendations generated since 1979. They make up a scheme, which, if implemented holistically, will cure common problems that perpetuate poor police performance and unaccountable law enforcement.
- The design requires states and the Centre to put in place mechanisms to ensure that:
- The police have functional responsibility while remaining under the supervision of the executive;
- Political control over the police is kept within legitimate bounds;
- Internal management systems are fair,
- Policing is increased in terms of its core functions, and public complaints are addressed through an independent mechanism.
On the ground, however, states have chosen four approaches:
- Actively resist the court’s order;
- Lie doggo and do nothing;
- Do something but do it wrong,
- Get out from under the Supreme Court’s orders by passing laws which not only do not conform to the court’s orders but actually give statutory sanction to bad practices.
- For instance, in the majority of the 17 Police Acts passed since 2006, state governments have given themselves the sole discretion to appoint police chiefs instead of choosing from a panel recommended by the UPSC.
- In the last decade, the court itself has been inconsistent in ensuring its directions are being followed. After four years of patience, in 2010, it appointed a monitoring committee.
- It’s one brief shining moment flashed by when chief secretaries of four states were summoned to explain total non-compliance.
- Once empty justifications, excuses and promises were given, amici curiae have come and gone, hearings on compliance have sputtered into life under different judges and inexcusable delay, leaving a disillusioned public behind.
- The Central government’s pallid efforts toward encouraging national reform have included the formation of committees to create a Model Police law in line with the Court’s directions.
- The Model Bill of 2006 drafted under Soli Sorabjee’s chairpersonship has been adopted in breach by 17 states and entirely ignored by the Centre. Then, as if to signal some sign of wakefulness, another Police Act drafting committee was formed in 2013 to make revisions to the 2006 model.
- Dutifully, it has given its recommendations, but not acted upon. In any other country, such brazen disobedience to its Supreme Court’s orders would be a crisis of constitutionalism. In India, this is routine disobedience and the courts have barely stirred.
- Ten years of Prakash Singh signifies the valiant efforts of some within the police and amongst civil society to make improvements even if they are whistling in the wind.
- It shows also how strong the police-power connection is and how difficult it is to break a captive police from its enslavement to political clout.
- It signals how unwilling all political parties are to take the smallest steps to change the police from a force designed to tamp down the public to the public service our democracy deserves.
- The seven directives:
- Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:
- Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police
- Lay down broad policy guideline and
- Evaluate the performance of the state police.
- Ensure that the DGP is appointed through merit based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
- Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years.
- Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
- Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
- Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
- Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.
The need for police reforms in India is long recognised. There has been almost three decades of discussion by government created committees and commissions. But non implementation of reforms shows how strong the police-power connection is and how difficult it is to break a captive police from its enslavement to political clout. Elaborate.
- Need for police reforms.
- Efforts made in the past and judgement in Prakash Singh case.
- Why reforms have not been made.
- Good efforts by some states and the way forward.