Police Reform

Public Order

         The right to life is the most fundamental right of any citizen.  Physical safety and security of all, provided as a right under the ‘rule of law,’ is one of the important characteristics distinguishing a market economy from a semi-feudal one.  If feudal landlords can force their will on the poor, the scheduled caste or land-less labourers it is the very anti-thesis of a market economy. The market economy can only be based on and function under an administrative system which ensures the safety, security and freedom from physical coercion of all market participants.  Investment in production and employment generation cannot but be severely affected if personal security and the safety of investment are under threat.  The slow & steady deterioration in the ‘law and order’ situation over the past several decades has not left any of us untouched from the affluent suburbs of Delhi to the semi-feudal regions of East India.  We cannot afford to ignore this deterioration much longer if the negative consequences on economic growth and development are to be avoided.  Sporadic and short-term campaigns to tone up the police are not enough.  Fundamental changes are needed in the entire system and structure of policing, which according to the Constitution is a “State Subject.”

Politicization

            The objectives, work ethic and effectiveness of the police has been undermined by constant political interference, transfers, and use of the police for personal and other purpose by State leaders. Their poor emoluments and basic living conditions and inadequate education and training also contribute to inefficiency and low morale.  The sole objective of the police must be to uphold the ‘rule of law’ and ensure ‘law and order.’ Previous police commissions have identified the need for creating a structure in which police autonomy and independence is ensured.  The reforms recommended by the Law Commission and others and approved by the Supreme Court in 2006 in a case filed by Prakash Singh et al.. The directions of the SC to frame a new Police Act have been blithely ignored by most State Governments (who are responsible for Police under the constitution). 

Reforms

Among the reforms suggestions is an independent police commission, with subsidiary commissions in each state, which would make senior appointments, monitor their performance and ensure integrity.  Given the frequent complaints about police harassment and worse, there also has to be an independent set-up to police the policemen and to protect the citizens against arbitrary actions by the police.  A start could be made by separating investigation, forensic analysis and prosecution of all crimes, from the normal police, which reports to the home minister/chief minister of each state, into a separate organization under an independent police Commission that will have full administrative autonomy and be accountable to a constitutionally appointed overview authority that includes civil society representatives along with government and opposition representation. There could also be separate sub-commissions to look into public complaints against the police and the working conditions and grievances of the police personnel.

Social Sensitization      

     Social education of police who deal with crime against women and reform for procedures for dealing with rape cases given the trauma that the victims have gone through, including the rehabilitation of victims and “in camera trials’.  Especially in metros like Delhi, the proportion of policewomen in the police force could be increased at a faster pace and consideration given to appointment of a female commissioner for crimes against women and children.  At the same time something needs to be done about their unsatisfactory housing situation.

Administration

      Given the already low ratio of police to population, the fact that a substantial proportion  vacancies in the police force, shows a serious failure of administration.  The ratio of police personnel per population also needs to be raised gradually to a level that is appropriate to a country at our per capita income (GDP) level. A major program of computerization, use of information technology and modern management tools to register (e-filing of FIR), gather evidence on, file and prosecute cases and to manage, monitor cases in the courts.   These would be the basis for monitoring individual cases and employees, doing statistical analysis by user and employee and providing management information.  This would help in identifying and rectifying delays and bottlenecks in the policing and prosecution system.  All professional equipment and facilities (e.g. modern forensic labs) needed by the police for effective functioning must be provided to them. 

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