The Nirbhaya case and protests aftermath provide an occasion to examine certain fundamental assumptions about policing in India. It should be noted here that after the incident the Delhi police were blamed for failing to prevent such incidents. It is debatable whether the police alone were blameworthy here. Both the state and community at large have a role in shaping public safety, especially that of women and children.
Police is a State Subject
Police is an exclusive state subject and the center has its limitations in this regard.After independence, some states came out with their own police acts.For example, the Bombay Police act, 1951; the Kerala Police act 1960; the Delhi Police act, 1978.However, all of these police acts were a replica of the Indian police act, 1861. This has in extreme situations made the situation of guardian turning predator and the confidence of the people has come down.
National Police Commission
This was the first commission at the national level after independence. It had wide terms of reference covering the police organization, its role, functionality, accountability, relations with the public etc. This committee gave a comprehensive report and recommended to bring an autonomous body of organization which could be accountable to people. However, the major recommendations of this committee were not accepted by the government. The National Police Commission in its 8th and concluding report of 1981, submitted a new Police Bill for India. Thereafter in 2005 the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted the Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC) to draft a Model Police Bill for India
Prakash Singh and others vs the Union of India (1995)
In 1995, Prakash Singh, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh filed a PIL regarding police reforms in India. This led to the government constituting a new committee under the chairmanship of Julio Ribeiro, and the Julio Ribeiro Committee was formed in 1998.This was followed by further committees like Padmanabhaiah, Malimath committee, Soli Sorabjee committee. In 2006, since there were no movements in the direction of reforms, the Supreme Court made the police reforms a mandatory reform to be taken up by the central and state governments.
The Seven Directives by Supreme Court (2006)
The apex court gave its nearly revolutionary directions in 2006, a decade after Mr. Singh first filed his petition. The states and union territories were directed to comply with seven binding directives that would kick-start reform.
Need for police reforms:
Crime, when initial police organizations came up, was a petty offence not requiring any sophisticated methods of investigation and detection. However, crime now is not only widespread and violent but also sophisticated with the abundant use of technology. Fallout is raising fear in a community, especially among elders, women and children.
Another criticism against the police is of their preoccupation with the problems of the political party in power and those of the rich and famous. The phenomenal rise in private security agencies also accounts for the growing lack of trust in the state police. This is a shameful but real state of affairs in most of India. The security of the society and the welfare of the people is dependent on the efficiency of the police
Problems with existing Policing system
- The police do not have functional responsibility while remaining under the supervision of the political executive.
- Political control of police by the political executive is not conditioned and is not kept within its legitimate bounds.
- Internal management systems are not fair and transparent.
- Policing efficiencies have decreased in terms of their core functions.
- Public complaints are not addressed properly and police accountability is comparatively less.
Challenges faced by the police in the country:
- Lack of effective means to collect and analyse the intelligence data collected.
- Deteriorating quality of state investigation departments.
- Outdated arms and equipment.
- Lack of coordination within the police departments.
- Lack of proper training.
- Political interference.
- Many apex organizations continue to have huge vacancies.
Challenges like police training and quantity of force along with the quality, the long working hours as well as the isolation of police force from the public in the form of separate living quarters should be looked into.
Police should be made an integral part the society they live in.
Police reforms should no longer be delayed and the civil society should play its role for faster action by the government.
It is high time that the government seriously consider bringing police/public order in the Concurrent List of the Constitution. All state governments depend on the Centre to maintain law and order.
India’s police is plagued with serious structural issues. The average policeman does not know the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act well. He does not get a chance to develop and refresh his professional skills in service. He learns on the job and makes mistakes that have serious repercussions on justice delivery. It needs to be emphasised that police reforms are absolutely essential if India is to emerge as a great power. Economic progress cannot be sustained if we are not able to generate a safe and secure environment. The democratic structure may also crumble if we do not arrest the trend of criminals gaining ascendancy in public life.