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India needs to wake up to the dire need for police reforms

  • IASbaba
  • June 18, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Structure, organization and functioning of the executive 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

India needs to wake up to the dire need for police reforms

Context: The George Floyd incident in US and the ensuing protests in US against racism & police brutality has necessitated the need to reform India’s own police system

Issues faced by Police in India

  • Overburdened: Police work under incomprehensible pressure as they are understaffed. India had (in 2017) 131 police officers per 1,00,000 people; that is lower than the sanctioned number (181) and UN recommended number (222)
  • Slow filling of vacancies in Police which further aggravates the understaffed situation. More than 5 lakh vacancies exist in police forces as of Jan 2020.
  • They are poorly paid when compared to their counterparts in developed countries
  • Poor Living Conditions: Police infrastructure is perennially underfunded, and, with some notable exceptions, there are few efforts to improve them.
  • Political Control: They are usually beholden to corrupt and venal superiors.
  • Prejudiced: Many policemen, like the rest of Indians, carry prejudices—hidden and not-so-hidden—which make their performance uneven and unfair
  • Police Abuse: There are complaints against the police including unwarranted arrests, unlawful searches, torture and custodial rapes
  • Not Citizen friendly: Interactions with the police are generally considered frustrating, time-consuming and costly
  • Weak Investigations: Well over 50% of cases filed by the police (nearly 80% in rape cases) end up in acquittals. One of the reasons is that Police often prioritise law & order over investigative matters
  • Structural issues: 86% of the police force are constables, who have no growth path other than a single promotion (to Head Constable) before they retire. This pushes them to adopt corrupt pathways thus reducing the credibility of Police
  • Low Public Trust: A study by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) found that less than 25% of Indians trust the police highly (54% for the army).
  • Lack of Uniformity across India: Policing in India is a state subject which means there is significant variation across states.
  • Resource Crunch: Between fiscal 2011 and 2015, states spent 4.4% of their budgeted expenditure on policing on average but this has reduced to 4% over the 2015-19
  • Frequent Transfer often leads to dilution of accountability of Police actions and inability to implement long-term reforms

Way Forward- Reform of Police System

  • The Model Police Act of 2006 was circulated to all the states but many of its fundamental principles that remains unfulfilled. There is a need for state to implement it in letter & spirit (considering the evolved scenario)
  • There is a need to separate law and order from investigation
  • There is a need to have an independent complaints authority to inquire into complaints of police misconduct
  • To check against such abuse of power there has internal accountability to senior police officers, and independent police oversight authorities
  • To increase the funding of Police so as to better their infrastructure which reduces the incentives for corruption
  • Sensitization of Police when dealing with public especially during sensitive issues like rape and dowry
  • Modernisation of Police Forces in the light of growing cyber crimes
  • Decriminalization of Politics: These reforms are not implemented due to lack of political will, which in turn could be linked to the growing criminalization of politics.

India’s Long History of Attempted Police Reforms

National Police Commission (NPC) 1977-81 Established after the Emergency, the NPC produced 8 reports suggesting major reforms across a range of police issues.
Ribeiro Committee 1998 Established by the Supreme Court to review the lack of action taken to implement NPC recommendations and to re-frame a new police act
Padmanabhaiah Committee 2000 Dealt with the issues of politicization and criminalization of the police and police accountability
Malimath Committee 2002-03 Suggested changes to the Indian Penal Code and outlined ways of improving judicial proceedings
Police Act Drafting Committee 1 2005 Drafted a new model Police Act to replace the 1861 Police Act.
Supreme Court Directives

(Prakash Singh Case)

2006 SC issued seven directives to state police forces including setting up State Security Commissions, Police Establishment Boards and a Police Complaints Authority
Second Administrative Reforms 2007 Noted that police-public relations were unsatisfactory and suggested a range of reforms to change this
Justice Thomas Committee 2010 Highlighted the total indifference of state governments to police reforms
Supreme Court Directives

(On Centre’s plea to modify 2006 verdict)

2018 New directives on police reforms and reviewed states progress in the implementation of the 2006 directives

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