PRAKASH Singh, a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who served as Director General of Police (DGP) Uttar Pradesh and Assam is considered to be a crusader for Police Reforms in India. Mr Singh who also headed Border Security Force (BSF) retired from active service in 1996 and soon after his retirement, he filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Supreme Court. After almost 10 years, the apex court gave a landmark decision on September 22, 2006 vis a vis police reforms. The Supreme Court gave several directions to the Govt of India, State Govts and Union Territories to undertake structural reforms with regard to policing.
The idea behind the SC judgment was to depoliticize the police force and to make it more accountable to citizens. Even after 15 years of this historic judgment, not a single state or UT has complied with all the directives of the Supreme Court.
In his recent interview with The Wire, Prakash Singh said that no state or UT has fully complied with the Supreme Court’s directives on police reforms. “It is also true that they have made halting, hesitant and half-hearted attempts towards compliance. Therefore, there is some movement forward, though not enough and not adequate. We see partial compliance in some states. Therefore, it cannot be described as zero compliance “ he said in the interview
The former DGP further said that some states have done certain things, but at the same time one finds that much of the compliances are superficial. “It is a bit farcical, in the sense, wherever possible they have diluted, modified the directions, and in some cases, the states have attempted to scuttle or sabotage them. For example the Union Government mandated that every state should have a State Security Commission (SSC) with the objective of insulating the police force from external pressure. Such commissions are supposed to be constituted in the way that they are evenly balanced with representatives from the government and civil society. That is the objective of the Supreme Court. Now, what we find is that in most of the states either there is a preponderance of the government representatives, or if they are equal in number, we find that persons chosen from the civil society are known supporters of the government. This defeats the very objective of constituting the SSC “ he added
Seven directives on Police Reforms
The Supreme Court in its detailed judgment had given seven directives on reforming the police force which are explained as under:
Depoliticizing Police force
The first directive calls for the constitution of a State Security Commission (SSC) to ensure that the government does not exercise “unwarranted influence or pressure on police” and to lay down broad policy guidelines and evaluate the performance of the state government.
DGPs appointment on merit
The second directive calls for ensuring that the DGP is appointed through a merit based transparent process.
Fixing minimum tenure
The third directive is to secure a minimum tenure of two years. The calls for ensuring that other police officers operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years.
Separation of Police Functions
Fourth directive calls for separation of the law and order and investigation functions of the police.
The fifth direction asks states to set up the Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of DSP.
The sixth directive calls for setting up of a Police Complaints Authority (PCAs) at the state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of DSP in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against police personnel below DSP rank in cases of serious misconduct.
Setting up NSC
The last directive seeks setting up of the National Security Commission (NSC) at the central level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organizations with a minimum tenure of two years.
Police Reforms in J&K
In Jammu & Kashmir, which has been brought under the direct control of Union Government after the abrogation of article 370 and subsequently dividing it into two Union Territories (UTs) of J&K and Ladakh, I was personally under this impression that Govt would be serious about streamlining the governance mechanism in J&K which includes making J&K Police a professional force as successive political governments failed to implement even one SC guideline on police reforms. Instead, J&K Govt filed affidavits in Supreme Court seeking exemption in implementing the apex court directives.
The first affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary of J&K on 29th December 2006, sought for an extension to file a compliance report. The second affidavit filed on 23rd April 2007, applied for an exemption to implement the directives number 1, 4 and 6 for constitution of State Security Commission (SSC) , separation of investigation and law and order functions of police and setting up of Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
According to the affidavit of December 2006, the J&K government had set up a drafting committee to come up with a new police law but the law was never enacted by any elected Govt in J&K in the last 12 years i.e between 2006 to 2018. Infact, the National Conference Govt in 2013 attempted to bring in a new J&K Police Draft Bill. The draft bill was made public. The draft bill gave J&K Police powers quite similar to AFSPA. The opposition parties had raised hue and cry over the issue. The bill was sent to the deep freezer.
Police Reforms & its background
For more than 16 years, the debate around police reforms has revolved around how to satisfactorily separate police functioning from undue and illegitimate political control and yet keep the police wholly accountable to civilian authority.
The political executive argues that the police must be directly controlled by them and the police argue that the kind of supervision and control that is presently exercised, skews the motivation and directions of policing and makes delivering high performance policing impossible.
This is where the key to better-policing lies. It lies in defining precisely the powers and functions of the political executive and police chief. In this model, the political executive retains its supremacy of supervision and control and the police rather than being ‘independent’ or ‘autonomous’ (words that do not have good connotations in a democracy when referring to a coercive force) have ‘operational responsibility’. In other words, by making roles explicit in the statute itself, one can achieve the best of solutions; which are on the one hand a civilian executive that lays down policy, provides the means to operationalise it and can hold the police chief accountable for good performance, and on the other a police establishment that has clear goals and tasks before it and is left alone to deliver the protection of life, property and liberty without being distracted by discretionary directions from various sources. Such a scheme that conditions executive powers without diminishing it makes it even more potent.
The supervision, direction and control of the police throughout the state shall be vested in an officer of the rank of Director General of Police (DGP) designated as the state police chief. The DGP shall be responsible to the Minister (Home Minister) for
- i) carrying out the functions and duties of the police;
- ii) the general conduct of the police;
iii) the effective, efficient and economical management of the police;
- iv) tendering advice to the Minister;
- v) giving effect to any lawful ministerial directions.
The DGP shall not be not responsible to and must act independently of, the Minister regarding:
- i) the maintenance of order in relation to any individual or group of individuals; and
- ii) the enforcement of the law in relation to any individual or group of individuals; and
iii) the investigation and prosecution of offences and
- iv) decisions about individual police officers.
The Minister may give the DGP directions on matters of government policy that relate to the:
- i) prevention of crime
- ii) maintenance of public safety and public order
iii) delivery of police services and
- iv) general areas of law enforcement.
No direction from the Minister to the DGP may have the effect of requiring the non-enforcement of a particular area of law.
The Minister must not give directions to the DGP in relation to the following:
- i) enforcement of the criminal law in particular cases and classes of cases
- ii) matters that relate to an individual or group of individuals
iii) decisions on individual members of the police
If there is a dispute between the Minister and the DGP concerning any direction under this section, the Minister must, as soon as practicable after the dispute arises,
- i) provide that direction to the DGP in writing; and
- ii) publish a copy in the gazette; and
iii) present a copy to the legislature.
There is no merit in rehashing the problems. The solutions have been laid down but from the eight reports of the National Police Commission (NPC) and the reports of the multiple committees that have deliberated endlessly to the MHAs own initiative of drawing up a brand new Model Police Bill to the Supreme Court’s final orders on reform – all have gathered only dust.
Pertinently, the National Police Commission (NPC) was appointed by the Government of India in 1977 with wide terms of reference covering the police organisation, its role, functions, accountability, relations with the public, political interference in its work, misuse of powers, evaluation of its performance etc.
In 2006, as a culmination to all the committee and commission recommendations, the Supreme Court laid out a roadmap for reform. Its order sought to address the extreme politicization of the police, the complete lack of accountability and the dismal levels of unprofessionalism. It has been five years since the judgment — every state government has shunned compliance.
D K Basu guidelines
With an aim to stop custodial deaths and torture at the hands of police, Supreme Court of India in 1997 came up with a historic judgment in the case titled D K Basu v/s State of West Bengal. The Court laid down several guidelines which are mandatory to be followed by Police while arresting people under various penal laws. Vide official letter No: D.O 15011/55/2001-HR Dated: 11.9.2001 Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) directed Chief Secretaries of all the states including Jammu & Kashmir to implement D K Basu guidelines in letter and spirit. The operative part of the letter reads as:
“The Hon’ble Supreme Court had in a writ petition filed before it in the case of D.K. Basu Vs State of West Bengal and Joginder Kumar Vs. State of UP, laid down certain guidelines required to be followed while arresting individuals, thereby modifying the laws relating to arrests to that extent. The Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of D.K. Basu Vs State of West Bengal had already been circulated to all the Home Secretaries as well as Director Generals of Police of all the State Governments and UT Admins on the 2nd of July, 1997 by this Ministry for compliance and report. However, instances have come to the notice where these principles have been violated by the authorities making arrests. This not only violates the law of the land but also results in gross violation of human rights to which we stand committed.”
The Police in different states, which includes J&K Police, are accused of even violating the DK Basu guidelines. Leaving aside people, the police officials are themselves unaware of these guidelines. People are detained for days and weeks in police stations and magistrates are hardly updated. Even in non-militancy cases, the rights of detainees are violated. In many cases, the detainee or their relative does not even know the name or rank of the police official making the arrest. At a time when questions are again being raised against J&K Police with regard to the recent Hyderpora encounter, it is the duty of UT administration and MHA to ensure implementation of Supreme Court guidelines on Police Reforms in Jammu & Kashmir, so that policing is made more professional and people friendly.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
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