Baba’s Explainer – Police Reforms

  • IASbaba
  • May 4, 2022
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Baba’s Explainer, Governance, Indian Polity & Constitution
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Police Reforms


  • GS-2: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive; Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Why in News: “Even today, the common perception is that one should stay away from police. It is a general notion that once a person wears the uniform, he controls everything”. PM Modi said these words while attending the first convocation of the Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) in Gujarat as he stressed on need for Police reforms.

What are the issues with Indian Police?
  • Colonial Framework: India largely continues to follow the Police Act of 1861, framed by the British. Even though the principal Act has been amended from time to time according to functional requirements, Police are still considered to be in frozen state.
  • Feudal Mindset: Most Police personnel think they are the masters of the society bearing the responsibility of disciplining the society and hence treat people as their patrons/ subjects. They fail to understand that it is people who are the masters in Democracy and Police is there to serve them.
  • Shortage of Financial Resources: While there has been a shift in crime profile from traditional crimes to economic and cyber frauds, there is a shortage of resources available for utilisation by police departments. 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
  • 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 5.3 lakh vacancies exist in police forces against the sanctioned strength of 26.23 lakhs, which is almost 20% shortfall. This has a direct bearing on the efficiency of the police.
  • Shortfall leading to inefficiency: The increased stress levels due to shortages can sometimes lead to the police acting out their frustrations, at times on the people. This then compromises the overall performance of police in the discharge of their duties.
  • Poor Living Conditions: Police infrastructure is perennially underfunded, and, with some notable exceptions, there are few efforts to improve them. Apart from poor work-life balance, cops also have to work with limited resources at their disposal. Some police stations in the country lack even basic facilities such as drinking water, clean toilets, transport, telephones, staff, and funds for routine purchases which put extra pressure on them.
  • 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. 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).
  • 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
  • Slow Career Progression leading to corruption: 86% of the police force are constables, who have no growth path other than a single promotion (to Head Constable) before they retire. Also, most states do not follow incentive-linked promotion schemes or any kind of extraordinary performance-linked promotion schemes. This pushes them to adopt corrupt pathways thus reducing the credibility of Police
  • Inadequate Training: Training in the Indian police has also been lacklustre. The impact of poor training and slow modernisation of police leads to non-collection of evidence in heinous crimes as per established procedures and hence low conviction rates.
  • Politicisation of Police: They are usually beholden to corrupt and venal superiors. As a result, the institution loses its autonomy & gets overtly influenced by Political class. Also, continued institutional apathy from bureaucracy & political masters towards the issue of police reform has prevented reform in policing
  • Inadequate Powers of Judiciary: The judiciary’s approach of simply passing directions and guidelines, has proven to be a failure. For judgements to transform into reality there is a need for money and a power of immediate implementation.
  • The gap between the highest court and the lowly police officer in India: Despite criminal laws being struck down as unconstitutional, they continue to be enforced in various parts of the country by local police.
  • Lack of Uniformity across India: Policing in India is a state subject which means there is significant variation across states.
  • Frequent Transfer often leads to dilution of accountability of Police actions and inability to implement long-term reforms
  • Competency Challenges in Modernisation: The educational background especially at the constable level is a major limitation in modernising the police force whether it is in terms of leveraging technology or upgrading to new processes.
What were the attempts to reform Police?

India has 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
Review Committee headed by Shri R.S.
2004 Separate state-level PEB to decide on all transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters for police officers.

At least three promotions should be given to the constables in their entire career.

Giving importance to the role of police in the internal security of the states as well as the country

Insulating the police machinery from extraneous influences.

Police Act Drafting Committee 1 2005 Drafted a new model Police Act to replace the 1861 Police Act.
Supreme Court Directives

In 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
What is the SC’s Prakash Singh judgment on police reforms?
  • Prakash Singh, who served as DGP of UP Police and Assam Police besides other postings, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court post retirement, in 1996, seeking police reforms. In 2006, the Supreme Court gave 7 directives with a view to bring in police reforms
  • The Court put on record the deep rooted problems of politicization, lack of accountability mechanisms and systemic weaknesses that have resulted in poor all round performance and fomented present public dissatisfaction with policing.

 The directives are –

  1. Setting up of State Security Commissions (SSC) – lays broad policy guidelines, evaluated performance of state police & ensures state government does not exercise unwarranted pressure
  2. Fixing the tenure (minimum of two years) and merit based transparent selection of the DGP
  3. A minimum tenure for the Inspector General of Police
  4. Separation of investigation and law and order functions
  5. Setting up of Police Establishment Boards– to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of DySP and make recommendation with these matter of police officers above rank of DySP.
  6. Creating a Police Complaints Authority- to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of DySP
  7. Forming a National Security Commission– 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.
What has been the record of States implement SC directive (Prakash Singh)?
  • According to report by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) notes that the efforts at implementing reforms remain slow, piecemeal and largely regressive. Not even one state was fully compliant with the apex court directives
  • 18 states passed or amended their Police Acts in this time but not one fully matches legislative models.
  • Not a single Union Territory is compliant with the directives, signalling the Central government’s non-compliance.
  • Only six States provide security of tenure for their police chief and only 13 States have instituted an internal mechanism to enable the police leadership to make decisions on transfers and postings of State police officers without political interference
  • The CHRI found that 26 out of 28 States have constituted an SSC either through Police Acts or government orders. While Telangana and Odisha are the only two States that have not established SSCs on paper, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the only States that make the recommendations of the SSC binding.
How State governments circumvent the SC directives to continue controlling the police?
  • Piecemeal Changes: State legislations has been criticised for being “flawed” and only making piecemeal changes to save themselves from the ire of the Supreme Court that was pulling up states that had not followed its directives. It is also criticised that the state Acts were deliberately formulated in such a way that “it just gave legal garb to the status quo that existed before”.
  • CM special powers retained: In Maharashtra Police Act of 2014, a section 22(N)(2) had been added that gave the CM special powers to transfer officers at any point in case of ‘administrative exigencies’. Thus, while the SC directive was that an officer should not be transferred before the given tenure, CM’s have used this section for mid-term transfer thereby maintaining control on transfers.
  • Ineffective Police Establishment Boards: Several senior officers, some of whom have been part of the five-member PEB, has told that the officers on the committee are ‘unofficially’ informed by the government about which officer would be preferred for which post. Among five officers, even if one or two do not agree, the majority usually sides with what the postings that the government of the day is interested in, thus rendering PEBs ineffective in its functioning
  • Inefficient State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA): In those states in which it was set up, SPCA did receive complaints from public. However, SPCA was struggling to set up offices in rural areas. Several activists had alleged that the SPCA was toothless as it could recommend action against any officer found guilty (final decision rested with the government). Also, the body has struggled due to lack of staff members.
What should be the way forward?
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • Training: We need to conduct regular training in human rights and social reintegration for police staff.
  • Filling up vacancies: We need to fill vacancies in mission mode so that the burden on existing police officers are reduced.
  • Professional Rewards: We need to create sufficient scope for upward mobility for prison officers, so that good work can be rewarded with promotions.
  • The court’s intention in Prakash Singh directive was to bring this internal decision-making firmly to the police leadership. Continued non-compliance with this directive will only further undermine the authority of the police leadership, affect the morale of officers and blur accountability. Hence, there is a need to implement the directives in letter & spirit.

Mains Practice Question – The institution of Police plays an important role in the robust functioning of Democracy. However, it suffers from inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Analysing the reasons for it, suggest measures to improve policing in India.

Note: Write answers to this question in the comment section

Mind Map




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