A starting point — Police reforms

The PM should at least get the Supreme Court order on police reforms implemented by all the states in the all-party meeting tomorrow.

You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you. ~Leon Trotsky

The Prime Minister has called for an all-party meeting tomorrow in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. In the usual course, these meetings end up in a few photo-ops, a “motherhood and apple pie” joint statement and achieve nothing concrete.

In an off-blog discussion with a fellow blogger at the INI, the discussion veered around to the starting point for the short-term plan to reinforce internal security. The creation of National Security Guards, who have been at the forefront of the current anti-terrorist operations, was itself a fallout of another anti-terrorist operation 24 years ago — Operation Blue Star. A wise and fleet-footed government could perhaps channelise this opportunity provided by Mumbai terror attacks and the accompanying public outrage into something similarly concrete.

The most pressing issue that would make a small but significant start is the vexed and long-pending issue of police reform. Former DG, BSF and DGP, UP and Assam, Prakash Singh was the petitioner in the Public Interest Litigation that led to the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement on police reforms. Here is a backgrounder on the police reforms.

On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court of India delivered a historic judgement by instructing central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives laying down practical mechanisms to kick-start police reform. The Court’s directives seek to achieve two main objectives: functional autonomy for the police – through security of tenure, streamlined appointment and transfer processes, and the creation of a “buffer body” between the police and the government – and enhanced police accountability, both for organisational performance and individual misconduct.

The Supreme Court ordered the establishment of three institutions at the state level with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences:

– State Security Commission to lay down broad policies and give directions relating to the preventive and service-oriented functions of the police.
– A Police Establishment Board, comprising the Director-General of Police and four other senior officers to decide on all transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Board was also tasked with making appropriate recommendations to the state government regarding the postings and transfers of officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above.
– A Police Complaints Authority at the district and state level to look into allegations of misconduct by police personnel.

In addition, the apex court ordered that the Director-General of Police should be selected by state governments from the three senior-most officers empanelled for promotion to that rank by the UPSC. It further stipulated that the DGP should have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years. Police officers on operational duty in the field, like the Inspector general (IG) Zone, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Range, SP in charge of a district and Station House Officer (SHO) should also have a minimum tenure of two years.

The Court also ordered the separation of the investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people. The Union government was also asked to set up a National Security Commission for the selection and placement of heads of central police organisations, upgrading the effectiveness of these forces and improving the service conditions of the personnel.

Given the “gravity of the problem” and “total uncertainty as to when police reforms would be introduced”, the Supreme Court considered that it could not “further wait for governments to take suitable steps for police reforms” and had to issue “appropriate directions for immediate compliance”. The Supreme Court required all governments, at centre and state levels, to comply with the seven directives by 31 December 2006 and to file affidavits of compliance by the 3rd of January 2007.

State government responses have varied tremendously, ranging from complying in time with the directives through executive orders, to expressing strong objections to the directives and asking the Court to review them. Others have requested the Court to grant them more time to comply with the judgment. Since January 2007 the SC has held eight hearings on this matter. On 11 January 2007, the Supreme Court cast away the objections raised and stated that its directions had to be complied with without any modification. The Court granted a three month extension to comply with four of its directives, while stating that the others had to be complied with immediately.

Despite a series of deadlines set by the court, many states filed for an extension of time to implement the directives or tabled their strong objections to the directives. On August 23, 2007, the court dismissed the review petitions filed by Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka as having no merit. Shockingly, the review petition of the government of India is still pending, despite the union’s consent to the original order in September 2006.

To date, only a handful of states are compliant or almost fully compliant with the directives handed down by the court on September 22, 2006. These states include Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland. The majority of states are still only partially compliant despite over two years having passed since the original judgement. Most states are dragging their feet on making Police Reforms a reality in India.

The worst offenders are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Maharashtra has taken the stand that the Supreme Court’s directions are “inconsistent with statutory provisions in existence.” Tamil Nadu has argued that “courts have no power to pass directions by way of judicial order to affect the legislative autonomy of the state.” Uttar Pradesh has set up a Police Reforms Commission to draft a bill that can be passed by the legislature.

Moreover, nine states have passed laws or ordinances to circumvent the implementation of the Supreme Court’s directions. These are: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Rajasthan. The Bihar Police Bill 2007 is particularly perverse.

On 16 July 2008, SC again passed an order to set up a Monitoring Committee to look into the compliance by the states and union territories. It is mandated to examine the affidavits filed by the states and union territories, taking into account reported difficulties in implementation and unnecessary objections. It will report to the court after the first three months and subsequently every six months so that appropriate follow up action can be taken against the respondents. Further the court will examine the new police legislations passed after the judgment in 2006, to examine if the legislations are in compliance with the letter and spirit of the Apex court’s directions.[CHRI, TLM, CourtVerdict]

Every crisis is also an opportunity. Not many politicians in this country know this better than the current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He used the BoP crisis in 1991 to usher in an era of economic reforms. In the domain of internal security, he could similarly use this watershed opportunity to push in an era of police reforms. If this issue is placed on the agenda in the all-party meeting tomorrow, then no political party or the Chief Minister — whether it be Gujarat, Bihar, UP, Haryana or Maharashtra — would dare oppose it for fear of adverse public opinion and backlash. That would be a good start towards redefining internal security and the only silver lining in this dark cloud.

There cannot be a more apt way to underscore the need for police reforms than in the words of Prakash Singh himself.

The reforms, it needs to be understood, are not for the greater glory of the police. The reforms are for better security and protection of the people of the country, for upholding their human rights and generally for improving governance.

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24 Responses to A starting point — Police reforms

  1. Rohit November 29, 2008 at 10:23 pm #

    If you look at states opposing it, Maharashtra and Gujarat. In states like UP, the transfer of officers is a virtual industry. This is going to require a lot of political will to push through and would require the PM to expend political capital.

    Is he prepared to do so? And if the states keep resisting, I think PMO should come out with a strong statement naming the sates which won’t agree. At least, the people in those states would know what is happening.

  2. Yash November 29, 2008 at 11:31 pm #

    police reforms will be useless, unless the legislature is removed from the executive. either make the governor as head of executive with the assembly or parliament making rules, or forget about reforms.

    politicians are above law, that is our biggest problem. secondly, till the indian electorate starts seeing beyond begging (grants and mass writing off of loans are something like begging) and make ppl self sufficient it would be foolish to talk about reforms. we have politicians begging for votes (on the name of caste, religion etc), we have policemen begging (bribe is a form of begging- though with power). let’s look at ourselves first. let’s just pay the fine or go to court instead of looking for rafa-dafa karo attitude. no state can claim to have a decent police force (i repeat no state).

  3. IndianACE November 29, 2008 at 11:34 pm #

    What the PM should do, should have been done a couple of years back. IMHO he was banking upon the United States to do our dirty job.

    The good doctor can’t be an expert on everything. He domain was economics and without doubt, a good job done there. His advisor for home security Sh Patil is conspicious by his absence this time and we do have a NSA, don’t we? How are they passing their time?

    Intelligence- External/Strategic has been really RAW.
    Internal Security- Too many broths spoil the cooks (State politicians)

    May be the famous institutionalised mechanism of dealing with the defence forces through the bureaucracy (PM in conversation with the Ex Chief) only eschews MMS’s state of mind.

    Get someone fresh, a young blood.NOW

  4. Liberty November 30, 2008 at 12:36 am #

    IMHO, the directions of Hon’ble Supreme court regarding police reforms are contrary to the constitutional scheme as submitted by some state govts like Maharastra, Tamilnadu and Uttar Pradesh.

    @ Pragmatic

    “The worst offenders are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Maharashtra has taken the stand that the Supreme Court’s directions are “inconsistent with statutory provisions in existence.” Tamil Nadu has argued that “courts have no power to pass directions by way of judicial order to affect the legislative autonomy of the state.”

    by terming opinion/ action of elected govt. of the states like Maharashtra, Tamilnadu and Uttar Pradesh as “worst offender”, you are only showing your utter disregard to the basic democratic principle of plurality of opinion. You are assuming that the words of Hon’ble Supreme Court are the last and final in the in this subject and there can be no second opinion on the subject matter.

    There is clear danger of India becoming a police state rather than a liberal democratic country if such reforms are implemented. Police and all security forces even without reforms are acting in a high handed manner beyond the authority given to them by law. Such reforms will only make police and security agencies more powerful to the detriment of common man and democratic polity of India. The governance of the country is the responsibility of the govt. through elected representative. Let police including all armed forces be fully answerable to executive who have been mandated to govern the country by ordinary citizen. The real issue is not police reform but improving the quality of elected representative of the people. The real issue is to get good people into politics. The real issue to improve and strengthen institution like election commission and prescribing stringent qualifications for becoming representative of the people.

    Police is to serve the needs of the society.No institution whether police or Army are to be placed on a high pedestal so that they may start seeing themselves above the ordinary citizen, legislature and elected govt. All security agencies including police to be answerable to civilian executive and legislature.

    A number of examples in the past will show , how individuals when occupying position of power , particularly in armed forces start feeling them selves above the elected civilian executive- Gen Douglas Mac Aurthur during Korean war, Dismissed Naval Chief Bhagwat in India.

    If Mr Prakesh Singh really means business, he should contest election and become prime minister of india to introduce police reforms through parliament rather than taking the path of PIL.

  5. voyager November 30, 2008 at 1:36 am #

    The reforms are a must but the catch lies in the fact that political reform must precede any other. That remains an increasingly distant dream unfortunately.

    Maybe the terrorists did us a favour this time by targetting the elite and not the common people. Maybe that’s what is required to kick start this process and rid us of utterly incompetent politicans like Shivraj Patil.

  6. photonman November 30, 2008 at 8:11 am #

    @ Pragmatic:

    I agree that the police needs to be reformed, and the current situation presents an excellent opportunity to push it through.

    However, there is another point I’d like to add. As we saw during this attack, time is of the essence. It was quite clear that the state police did not have the wherewithal to take on the commando-like terrorists. The first and only credible response came from the the NSG and army/navy commando units. This happened more than 6 hours later, giving the terrorists plenty of time to consolidate their positions.

    Perhaps one should seriously give some thought to enhancing state police capabilities – by creating something like the SWAT they have in the US.

  7. Yash November 30, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    photonman,

    mumbai police has more than 1000 Ak 47, what more do u want to give them. the problem was, they were shit scared. otherwise how could these terrorists spread out while firing, from one place to another, without encountering a single policeman (sorry! please do not bring karkare into this, he and the others were shot just standing) with a weapon. police reforms will be useless in this scenario. 10 terrorists against don’t know what is the strength of mumbai police. such a state of affairs is unimaginable.

    what commando like terrorists are u talking about. in the initial 3-4 hours had the police gone in with just 2-3 persons in each place (not with guns blazing) the operation would have been over by morning.

    i am also critical of the operations by NSG, seems they are loosing sheen (if i write why prag is going to kill me). this was not a conventional operation with guns and grenades. there are so many gases available which render a man unconscious in a few minutes. so the weapon in these places should have been these gases, with the weapons as secondary resort. there are methods to see beyond walls, through keyholes, etc, i still don’t know why the NSG hasn’t procured them. today we have a 10 meter long, 8mm thich optical fibre which cab enable u to put it under the door, through keyhole or a hole drilled in the wall which could have shown u the entire thing in the rooms.

    i remember russia first used gases in a difficult setting, a big hall. they were constrained to use dangerous gases, because it was a very large hall not a room, and the terrorists going berserk moment they came to know was a surety.

  8. IndianACE November 30, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    Pat to the PM on Pat-ill being put to grass.

    Can they look beyond their noses. I think their young articulate spokesman Manoj Tiwari seems to have it.

    Chit-am-bram is required to get us out of the mess in his domain which he also was wishing away for the past year. Further we require a grassroot man as a home minister, not one born with the proverbial silver spoon and a nose in the air.

  9. menon November 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm #

    I hope we don’t go about Police reforms the Politician & Babu style. They want more NSG type forces, more Police Commando unit – in short they want a private mini Army most whom will ultimately end up as PSOs (Pers Security officers) to politicians. Police reforms should be all about reforming policing, which is non existent in India. Policing reforms encompasses:
    a) Crime prevention
    b) Defined Police methods like Traffic regulating, investigations, crowd control etc.
    c) Accountability
    d) Policing without becoming a tool of state terror.
    Military and Policing roles are not primarily anti terror operations. For this the anti terror squads like the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics teams) should be formed. They should be a part of the CPOs. The loose usage of the word ‘commando’ should be avoided in anti terror ops.
    Today we talk of police reforms where we are trying to make the police force an instrument of state terror by converting them into mini armies to be controlled by immature politician and bureaucrats. Civil Policing is far from this concept. It is ensuring that each citizen lives without fear of theft, murder, rape and drives in traffic regulated to safety norms. In the present structure we have the Police force at level zero, then the State Armed Police for level One problems, CPOs for level two, NSG for level three and finally when the civil administration fails we call in the Army. But what happens in practice? The police don’t lodge FIRs. They are incapable of recovering the theft of an elephant in an ant colony and are more employed on security duties for VIPS. The public have an inherent fear of the police. State Armed police are hardly used for level one disturbances and at the drop of the hat the Army is called in. And our Bureaucrats moot for dilution of the AFSPA which is supposed to be the last resort when the Civil Governance has failed. Yet when we talk of reforms we talk of giving draconian powers at Level zero to the police.

  10. photonman November 30, 2008 at 10:25 pm #

    @Yash:

    mumbai police has more than 1000 Ak 47, what more do u want to give them.

    Yes, there is something more needed. Training!

    what commando like terrorists are u talking about. in the initial 3-4 hours had the police gone in with just 2-3 persons in each place (not with guns blazing) the operation would have been over by morning.

    So you think the terrorists were just like a bunch of gangsters, eh?

    this was not a conventional operation with guns and grenades. there are so many gases available which render a man unconscious in a few minutes

    I am sure we will hear more about this. However, be prepared to hear (possibly cogent) reasons why the using gas was not feasible.

  11. howler December 5, 2008 at 9:32 pm #

    The first step in instituting any meaning full police reforms is to analyse the situation that exists today in the country. The institution of state police in our country is defunct. Our intelligence bureau has failed miserably. Track record of our CBI in bringing the culprits to book is dismal. more the high profile is the case, more dismal is its handling by CBI. Infact, you cant recall any brazen high profile case that has finally lead to punishment to guilty. olution will be in extending the scope of Central Staffing Scheme. The rot has also been set into the CPMFs.
    These agencies have definite and exclusive roles for each. However, there is a common thread running between them. The IPS. Each one of these agencies is headed by an IPS officer. Infact, the entire decision making lies in the hands of IPS in these organisations in an absolute manner. And as they say, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The reasons for this argument are not far to seek.
    Politicisation and degradation of the IPS is a reality today. This is not because this service has all people with low integrity or morals. it is because of the structure of this service and the supremacy accorded to it. It has crept into their structure that the number of recruits is actualy less than the totall number of highest level posts. that is to say if there are 50 IPS recruits in any year then there are 100-150 DsGP. in their case the pyramid is actually inverted on i.e. it broadens towards the top. coupled with it are the time scale promotions. Now what does all this imply?
    it implies that any one getting intoIPS has to simply has to worry about keeping their ACRs perfect. Since there are ample vacancies, whether they have the ability doesnt matter. Age permitting, they will in any case reach the top provided their service book is not red any where.That is why members of these services are all out trying to concentrate on keeping their records(i.e. their ACRs) healthy and avoiding slighest red remarks that will come in the way of their reaching the top for which all of them are destined in any case.
    In practical terms this amounts to keeping their poitical masters in good humour right from the day they join these services. Its no surprise then that they display remarkable flexibilty and going to any depths to please their political masters. Over the period of time they master the flexibility and political-master-pleasing ability to the extent of being spinelessness and putting even the most sought after dildos to shame. They are simply transformed in to dildos – lifeless, flexible things that vibrate only to please their political masters!
    Its no surprise then that you see in-service chaps resigning to contest elections, a fruitful culmination of a long “pleasing relationship” with political masters. Another out come is that every thing that is headed by the IPS has become DISASTER today. Be it the state police, the IB, CBI, CPMFs etc. These are besotted with multiple confusions arising out of the pleasing dildos heading these organisations having grown with a mindset of keeing their ACRs in order. Thats explains the dismal performances of these so called elite organisations and general degradation of administration and law & order.
    Any attempt to sanitise the security network in india should begin with disbanding of the dildos heading these agencies.

  12. menon December 5, 2008 at 9:39 pm #

    @ howler
    You said it !Bang On

  13. anand prakash December 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    indian police behave like old british raj.They are not people friendly,that is why public do not trust them.they are loyal to political pary in power. police reforms is to start from the recruitement of policeman.a constable should able to rise to supritendent.

  14. Anuj Varma January 9, 2009 at 1:08 am #

    Policemen in India need to take the equivalent of a Hippocratic Oath – where they swear never to bow before a politician – and swear to uphold public safety above all else!
    As long as we have the current police force – even a few good officers – will not be able to prevent incidents like 26/11. We need reforms starting with a clean separation between political power and IPS!

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  1. Pragmatic Euphony » Unanimity among Indian politicians - December 19, 2008

    [...] formation talks about the very basic issue that affects our internal security the most — police reforms. Despite a Supreme Court order, no one wants police reforms in their state, be it a Modi or [...]

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