Police Reforms: The Challenges
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
In News: In a relief to policemen in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court said that the state government should contemplate giving policemen a day off in a week, like other government officials in order to spend time with their families.
Background: This statement is in response to the plea seeking abolition of the orderly system in the police force.
Rational behind the statement:
“Every government servant is entitled to a one-day holiday in a week so that they can spend time with their families, likewise why shouldn’t the police personnel get a weekly off.”
Policemen are forced to work round-the-clock, sometimes without any holiday – one of the reasons for deviant activities of police officials. Policemen along with their family members face stress and mental agony and it is necessary to have at least a day’s holiday which would be helpful for them and their family members. A conducive atmosphere should be created for the policemen as it would help keep the morale high in the interest of the society.
Challenges of police reforms:
An assessment of the compliance status of states and union territories with the Supreme Court directives on police reforms has revealed that there has not been “a single case of full compliance” and that the governments have “either blatantly rejected, ignored, or diluted significant features of the directives”.
- Nature of the duties are very uncertain and the police itself says that policemen are on duty all the time – it’s a violation of Human Rights.
- Arduous nature of duties i.e., the risk to life is very high. Policemen are killed in India in the performance of duties than in any other country of the world. There’s no indication that in future the risk element would be less.
- Accountability to the political executive vs operational freedom: Police has the power to investigate crimes, enforce laws and maintain law and order in a state. To ensure that such power is only used for legitimate purposes, various countries have adopted safeguards such as making police accountable to the political executive and creating independent oversight authorities. In India, the political executive (i.e., ministers) has the power of superintendence and control over the police forces to ensure their accountability. However, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission has noted that this power has been misused, and ministers have used police forces for personal and political reasons. Hence, experts have recommended that the scope of the political executive’s power must be limited under law.
- Police force lack the training and the expertise required to conduct professional investigations. They also have insufficient legal knowledge (on aspects like admissibility of evidence) and the forensic and cyber infrastructure available to them is both inadequate and outdated. In light of this, police forces may use force and torture to secure evidence. Further, while crime investigations need to be fair and unbiased, in India they may be influenced by political or other extraneous considerations.
- Audits have noted that police vehicles are in short supply. New vehicles are often used to replace old vehicles, and there is a shortage of drivers. This affects the response time of the police, and consequently their effectiveness.
- Underutilisation of funds for modernisation: Both centre and states allocate funds for modernisation of state police forces. These funds are typically used for strengthening police infrastructure, by way of construction of police stations, purchase of weaponry, communication equipment and vehicles. However, there has been a persistent problem of underutilisation of modernisation funds.
Accountability of the Government: The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has recommended that this power be limited to promoting professional efficiency and ensuring that police is acting in accordance with law – constitution of a state security commission (SSC) in each state and union territory with an aim to “ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the state police”.
Housing facilities: To improve their efficiency and incentive to accept remote postings
Work hours: Need to regulate the working hours.
- While the United Nations recommended standard is 222 police per lakh persons, India’s sanctioned strength is 181 police per lakh persons. After adjusting for vacancies, the actual police strength in India is at 137 police per lakh persons. Therefore, an average policeman ends up having an enormous workload and long working hours, which negatively affects his efficiency and performance.
- One way to reduce the burden of the police forces could be to outsource or redistribute some non-core police functions (such as traffic management, disaster rescue and relief, and issuing of court summons) to government departments or private agencies. These functions do not require any special knowledge of policing, and therefore may be performed by other agencies. This will also allow the police forces to give more time and energy to their core policing functions.
Augmentation in the police strength: A high percentage of vacancies within the police forces exacerbates an existing problem of overburdened police personnel.
Adequate facilities of transport
Independent complaints authority: There is a need to have an independent complaints authority to inquire into cases of police misconduct.
- The police force should receive greater training in soft skills (such as communication, counselling and leadership) given they need to deal with the public regularly. Police requires the confidence, cooperation and support of the community to prevent crime and disorder. Therefore, police-public relation is an important concern in effective policing.
- Community policing requires the police to work with the community for prevention and detection of crime, maintenance of public order, and resolving local conflicts, with the objective of providing a better quality of life and sense of security.
The government of India (GoI), came up with the concept of SMART police in 2014 — police that would be strict and sensitive, modern and mobile, alert and accountable, reliable and responsible, tech-savvy and trained. There was, however, no effort by the MHA to make the concept a reality. The states were, of course, unconcerned. Taking a long-term of view of states’ indifference to systemic improvements in police, it is high time that GoI consider bringing police in the “concurrent list” of the Constitution.
If India is to achieve its status as a great power, it is absolutely essential that police is restructured and modernised. We have had enough of Rulers’ Police, what we need today is People’s Police. The transformation is overdue.
Note: Under the Constitution, police is a subject governed by states.