Friday, December 28, 2007

Reforming the police


The central government last Thursday apprised the Supreme Court of having formed a committee to pursue the police reforms as per its directions of 22 September 2006 to the Centre and all states. But various states have resented the guidelines saying they run contrary to constitutional provisions. The case is to be heard next week for further directions.
For decades, India's police force has operated on the whims of politicians with police officers being transferred if they did not act on their wishes. Now it is all set to change, if the Supreme Court directions are followed. The governments cannot arbitrarily transfer officers. Postings for officers from SHO to the IG level will be of a minimum period of two years. A Police Establishment Board will look into promotions and postings. A National Security Commission will handle appointment of chiefs of Central Police Organisation.
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. Theabject 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.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.
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.
The first and most important step is to entrust the responsibilities for the posting, promotion and transfer of police personnel to Police Service Boards consisting of two or three senior-most serving officers of the police department and some eminent persons including one or two who would have retired from the police with good record of service.
There is urgent need for radical change 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 faces of the government for the common people. 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. 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."
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.During the two years of training in the police school they should be given the required education to pass the 12th standard examination, and those found eligible based on their record in the police school, should then be posted to the field as probationary constables for a year. Similarly, recruitment to sub-inspectors should be made from young men and women who would have passed the 12th standardexamination based on an all-state entrance test. During the period of training in the police academy, the recruits should be given education to pass the graduate level examination of a university.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 motivatedand 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 institutions are often those who have been denied other more attractive assignments in the police department. The rule should be that only the best andbrightest officers available in the Indian Police Service should be posted to the training institutions.A common excuse for not bringing about changes like those mentioned above 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. The Supreme Court’s order is an ideal opportunity to bring about these badly needed reforms.
6 Jan 2007

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