Reforming the police
Police Act of 1861 was a measure to consolidate the colonial regime. This Act continues to be operative even today. Any new enactments made in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala or Delhi are a re-write of the 1861 enactment. Politicians and bureaucrats control the police today, just as the colonial rulers controlled the police during the colonial regime. They are not a community police; they are made to act in support of the 'establishment' or the 'politician-ruler'.
Several useful and practical suggestions are available with the government in the reports of various committees of experts appointed by the government in order to achieve the objective of having an efficient and independent police force committed to the principles of a genuine democracy. But, a common excuse for not bringing about changes like those mentioned in those report is that the subject "police" falls in the State List under the Constitution and that the Central government has very little authority to introduce such radical reforms. But no one can deny that if there is genuine political will, such changes are possible.
During the period between 1979 and 1981, the National Police Commission, headed by Dharma Vira, produced eight reports. Some major recommendations centering around the problem of insulating the police from illegitimate political and bureaucratic interference included: (i) setting up of a Security Commission in each state to see that the government exercises its superintendence over the police in an open manner within the framework of law; (ii) prescribing a selection procedure that would ensure the appointment of the best officers to head the state police force; (iii) giving these officers a fixed minimum tenure so as to reduce their vulnerability; (iv) amending rules so that arbitrary transfers of police officers done without authority would become null and void; and (v) replacing the Police Act of 1861 with a new Police Act. None of the above recommendations of the NPC has been implemented."Everyone knows that the power of transfer and posting which is today exercised by the ministers, has become the main cause of the erosion of the prestige and efficiency of the police force in our country. Apart from affecting the independence of the police force, it is a well known fact that this has led to widespread corruption in many states. However, without this basic change, any other measure of reform will be meaningless and futile.Another area in which radical change is necessary is in the recruitment and career planning of police personnel at the subordinate levels in the police force. Constables accounting for about 85 per cent of the total police force in the country are the most visible face of the government for the common people. There has been little change in the thinking of the state governments about the role which a constable should have as a member of the police force from the time of the Police Commission of 1902 which had laid down the policy that "duties involving exercise of discretion and judgment should not be entrusted to constables." Most of the constables at the state levels continue to remain as constables without getting promotion to a single higher grade even after 30 to 35 years of service.In order to attract young men and women of talents and high motivation to the police force, it will be necessary to provide opportunities for promotion to the constables to higher levels of responsibility, such as sub-inspectors, circle inspectors and even deputy superintendents of police. Recruitment as constables should be made from young persons who would have passed the 10th standard examination, based on an all-state entrance test conducted by an independent police recruitment authority.A sub-inspector should be able to look up to the prospects of occupying higher responsibilities like deputy superintendent and even district superintendent of police and appropriate provision should be made in the recruitment rules for such promotions from the ranks of sub-inspectors. Here again recruitment should be made by the police recruitment authority without any interference or influence from outside.Another important change necessary for establishing a highly motivated and independent police force is to give the highest importance to the training, both initial and in-service, of the police personnel. Unfortunately, training has become one of the most neglected areas in police administration. Those appointed to head training institutionsare often those who have been denied other more attractive assignments in the police department. The rule should be that only the best and brightest officers available in the Indian Police Service should be posted to the training institutions.The culture of police administration at the lower levels of the force has undergone very little change from what it was under colonial rule during the second half of the 19th century. Even after independence, successive
Governments have continued to use the police force as an agency to carry out their dictates and wishes irrespective of considerations like fairness and impartiality to all citizens. The abject subordination of the police, at the lower levels, to whichever party is in power has come to be accepted as the normal rule and most policemen have become accustomed to acting at the behest of the party in power as part of their duty.