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Charting a reformed future for the police

  • IASbaba
  • November 28, 2020
  • 0
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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.

Charting a reformed future for the police

Context: Director General of Police (DGP) conference scheduled for early December.

Conference through the years

  • Foundation of Conference: Addressing the first in Independent India on January 12, 1950, Sardar Patel, the then deputy PM & home minister, expressed hope that the provincial police would handle law and order on their own, and not depend on the military as an aid to civil power. He also expected better results in criminal investigation with greater coordination between the states
  • Impact of Conferences: The recommendations of the annual conference, in the early years, led to a great boost to police infrastructure, induction of human resources and technological upgradation. 
  • Concern during 1950s to 1970s: Communal violence, crimes against women, vehicle-theft and a range of other issues reflected the concerns of the prevailing times.
  • Concern during 1950s to 1970s: Terrorism in Punjab and the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir became dominant themes in the 1980s and 90s.
  • Concerns of 21st Century: Modernisation of Police, Cyber Crimes, Money laundering, infodemics, mob lynching and hate crimes are new challenges that are being faced by Police of today’s times.

However, important pronouncements by home ministers, during conferences in the past, have been largely ignored

  1. Police Commissionerate System
  • In 1962, Lal Bahadur Shastri called for the introduction of the police commissioner system in cities with more than 500,000 people. 
  • He felt that to handle crimes and law and order, the police should have all powers, even if it meant withdrawing some from the deputy commissioner, revenue. 
  • Today, more than half of the one-million-plus towns are still without the police commissioner system.
  1. Organisational Changes in Police System
  • In 1964, the idea of an All India Police Commission was strongly mooted
  • In 1981, home minister Giani Zail Singh stressed on the need to post an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer as the home secretary or joint secretary in view of the specialised demands of the ministry. The home ministry shelved the proposal.
  • Further, recommendations of Commissions under Dharamvira (1977), Ribeiro (1998), Padmanabhaiya (2000), Malimath (2000) lie buried as archival material. 
  • The home ministry does not brief police chiefs on their status and the public, too, is unaware.
  •  In 2005, Prime Minister (PM) Manmohan Singh announced a police mission and, in 2014, PM Narendra Modi called for a SMART Police. Both are still works-in-progress
  1. Key issues have escaped the attention of DGP conferences
  • Police reforms, the police commissioner system, police autonomy, management of police cadre and the role of the home ministry are surprisingly never discussed
  • The reason cited for not discussing these issues is that police is a state subject. 
  1. Ineffective Prosecution
  • Ineffective prosecution is the bane of the criminal justice system. 
  • While prosecution-guided investigation exists in other countries, there is no coordination between the two in India. 

Way Ahead

  • Postings at ground level: If police stations are to deliver, then posting of SHOs has to be done by superintendents of police and not on secretarial files. 
  • Autonomy to DGP: The police should be declared a professional organisation where the CEO, here, the director-general of police (DGP), has unfettered right over transfers of his field commanders and is held accountable for his actions.
  • Transparency in Conference: The public airing of DGPs’ resolutions would enlighten citizens and exert moral pressure on chief ministers (CMs) to implement them.
  • Agenda of 2020 Conference: Some critical events drawing nationwide attention to the role and functioning of the police must figure on the agenda of conference this year such as the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act agitations, Delhi riots, the Vikas Dubey encounter, the Hathras incident, the deaths in Tuticorin police station and the Sushant Singh Rajput case.  DGPs must discuss and assess handling of agitations and riots this year, while suggesting a road map for the future. 
  • Lack of critical forensic support at police stations has to be taken up. 
  • Sparing use of Discretionary Powers: It is time for the DGPs to decide that sedition laws, defamation and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or National Security Act, are resorted to only in exceptional cases
  • Avoid Politicization of Police: Finally, police leaders should resolve not to cede space to the political leadership or bureaucracy on professional matters and cooperate with each other, adhering to the spirit of the law of land

Conclusion

In a democracy, the police is the cornerstone for good governance and should not be taken for granted.

Connecting the dots:

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