Chapter 37: Police Reforms

Police force continues to be governed under the draconian 1861 law that chooses to create a police force to repress the peoples aspiration. The police even post 1947 continue to retain it colonial character under this Act, and hence there has been growing demands to make a functionally autonomous and accountable police force.

The Average policeman doesn't know the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code or the Indian Evidence Act. The rampant political interference in postings and transfers has created a police force that bends to the will of the political elite.

The police officials have no incentive to develop or refresh his professional skills in service. This means shoddy investigations which have serious repercussions to the criminal justice systems. As per statistics even after enacting stringent measures the conviction rate is 45% in India and conviction for crimes against women is 23%.

Police officials continue to be over-worked and under paid. The Police system has no investment in basic infrastructure or human resources. The budget of the Home ministry is 30% of the defence ministry even though the number of personnel are almost same. Even out of this the share of funds for Police modernization is just 11%.

Supreme Court in its Prakash Singh judgment addressed some of these issues but 17 states have passed laws to dilute it. Furthermore even the center hasn't implemented the order for Union territories.

Problems faced by Under-trials in India

Around 3 lakh people are in prison and 67% of them are under-trials and more than 65% of the under-trials spend around 3 months to 5 years before they are bailed out. 70% of these are illiterates and 55% are from socially disadvantaged sections of the society like minorities and SC’s.

They can rarely approach the lawyers or authorities due to hostility of the police and prison officials towards them. The Supreme Court had ruled that “Speedy justice” is a Fundamental Right under Article 21 of Life and Liberty.

The flaws in our criminal justice system however ensure that the ruling is never implemented. The Criminal Procedure Code also states that custody can be extended only 15 days at a time but since the under-trials are not produced in courts on time and are shunted from court to court, they languish in prison longer. So there is a need to coordinate with all stakeholders to get this system to change.

Problems faced by Central Police Forces

The politicisation and criminalisation of the police force through a nexus with corrupt politicians is causing havoc in internal security. The service conditions are harsh and the force deployed at borders, tough terrains, counter insurgency don’t find a break from the round the clock work. The grievances haven’t been resolved and so the attrition rates are high as many prefer retiring after completing the mandatory 20 years of service. The expansion of the police force has been great due to the need of the state governments. In India there are 182 police personnel per 1 lakh population but in reality 132 are present, this is well short of the 200 per lakh that international standards want.

The HRD is also a big problem as the housing facilities for the forces are inadequate.Their leaves can’t be availed as they are round the clock on duty. The camaraderie and bonhomie between the officers and the non gazetted officers is also lessening. This means that seniors can’t take the respect or loyalty of juniors for granted. Excessive use of repression can lead to unfortunate incidents of fratricide. The junior officers too are plagued with poor promotional avenues and so are forced to form links with political masters. They then try to bring pressure on their seniors through their political links.

All these problems can be tackled only by a comprehensive strategy for grievance redressal in the force. Piecemeal tactics like ban on social media etc. can’t help in the long run.

Police force is given the responsibility of maintenance of Law and Order along with the prevention and detection of crime.

Public order and police are state subjects and so the states are entrusted with the task of maintaining them.

The state police is headed by the Director General of Police or the Inspector General of Police. The state is divided into ranges for convenience in administration and each range is headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police.

Each range has many districts and the district police has circles, divisions and police stations.

In major cities the Police commissioners are the chiefs and they have magisterial powers.

Central government conducts the recruitment exam for appointment and selection of top police officers under the All India IPS cadre. The center all also has the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and various police and forensics training institutes.

Police force of Union territories is under the Central government control. This leads to clashes between Chief Ministers of UT's of Delhi and the police apparatus.

ITBP was created after the China war to guard the Indo Tibetan border and soon to have a One border One force it was assigned the entire stretch of India - China border. Even the states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh were assigned to it by replacing the Assam rifles.

ITBP is headed by the IPS officer and is under the supervision of the Home ministry. The officers of ITBP are skilled mountaineers and skiers.

Motto - "Valor, Determination and Devotion to duty

This was created in 1965 after the need was felt for a unified force for guarding the borders of India with the neighboring state of Pakistan.

BSF was formed by combining battalions of respective states. Today it guards the entire border with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It is also headed by an IPS officer and under the supervision of the Home ministry.

Peace time duties include prevent infiltration, cross border smuggling, protect border areas and civilians living there.

War time duties include guarding areas captured by the army, limited aggression against enemy police, guiding army in border areas, protect refugee camps, guard Prisoners of war, intelligene gathering and raids.

Motto - Duty unto death

Oldest paramilitary force of India. Created by british in 1835. It is called "Sentinel of the North East" / "Friend of the hill people". It guards the Indo Myanmar border. It too comes under the operational control of the Home ministry.

Motto - Sarvatra sarvottam suraksha

It operates under the Home ministry. 53% officers come from the Army and rest from central armed forces like BSF, ITBP etc. Its major task is counter terrorism operations.

Sardar Patel had the vision of a multi dimensional force and so the pre independence era unit was transformed into the current day CRPF.

It has many roles like protecting vital installations, fighting Naxals, counter insurgency in J&K and North East areas. It also helps in disaster relief and rehabilitation.

Motto - service and Loyalty

Controlled by the Home ministry and headed by an IPS officer, this force handles security of airports, VIP's and even private sector agencies.

It is a cost reimbursement force and so no burden on the exchequer.

Motto - Protection and Security

It handles the guarding of the Indo Nepal and Bhutan borders. It is headed by an IPS officer and controlled by the Home ministry. It also seeks to organise the border population into resisting the enemy.

Aims to save lives, minimize damage to property, continuing industrial production in case of hostile attack.

Voluntary force to assist police in controlling civil disturbance and communal riots.

These are police forces headed by a military officer. India has three paramilitary forces: Coast Guard, Assam Rifles and Special Frontier Force.

  • Intelligence Bureau (IB): The IB is the central intelligence agency for all matters related to internal security, including espionage, insurgency and terrorism.

  • Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): The CBI is an investigating agency set up under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. It is responsible for investigating serious crimes having all India or inter-state ramifications, such as those related to corruption, financial scams and serious fraud and organised crime (e.g., black marketing and profiteering in essential commodities). Typically, the CBI takes up an investigation: (i) on the order of the central government with the consent of state government, and (ii) on the order of the Supreme Court and High Courts.

  • National Investigation Agency (NIA): The NIA is an investigating agency set up under the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008. It is responsible for investigating offences against the sovereignty, security and integrity of the country punishable under eight specified laws, such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982. NIA takes up an investigation on the order of the central government, either on the request of a state government or suo moto (i.e. on the central government’s own authority).

  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB): The NCRB is an institution that collects and maintains records on crime across the country. It coordinates and disseminates this information to various states, investigating agencies, courts and prosecutors. It also functions as the national storehouse for fingerprint records of convicted persons.

  • Assam Rifles (AR): Guards India’s borders with Myanmar.

  • Border Security Force (BSF): Guards India’s borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

  • Indo Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP): Guards the border with China.

  • Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB): Guards India’s borders with Nepal and Bhutan.

  • Central Industrial Security Force (CISF): Provides security to critical infrastructure installations, such as airports, atomic power plants, defence production units and oil fields

  • Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF): Deployed for law and order, counter-insurgency, anti-naxal and communal violence operations.

  • National Security Guards (NSG): Specialised in carrying out counter-terrorism, counter-hijacking and hostage-rescue operations. In addition, it provides VIP security and security for important events.

  • Organisation and recruitment: Each state will have one police service, which shall be headed by the DGP. Direct recruitments to subordinate ranks (i.e. below Deputy SP) will be made through a state level Police Recruitment Board. Recruitment to officers’ ranks will be through the Union Public Service Commission or State Public Service Commission.

  • Responsibilities: The responsibilities of the police serve will include:

    • (i) enforcing the law impartially, and protecting life, liberty and human rights,

    • (ii) preserving public order, and preventing terrorist, militant and other activities affecting internal security,

    • (iii) protecting public properties, (iv) preventing and investigating crimes,

    • (v) providing help in natural or man-made disasters,

    • (vi) collecting intelligence, etc.

    • In police stations in urban areas and crime prone rural areas, investigation of heinous and economic crimes (e.g., murder, serious cases of cheating) will be carried out by a Special Crime Investigation Unit, headed by an officer at least of the rank of a Sub-Inspector.

    • Officers of these units will generally not be diverted for any other duty.

  • Accountability: The state government will exercise superintendence over the police service. This will include laying down policies and guidelines, setting standards for quality policing, and ensuring that the police perform their duties in a professional manner. State Police Boards will be constituted in each state to frame guidelines, select officers who are qualified to be promoted to rank of DGP, and evaluate police performance. Police Accountability Commissions will also be set up by states to address complaints of police misconduct. However key police functionaries (e.g., DGP and police station in charge) will have a minimum tenure of two years unless they have been convicted by a court, or suspended from service, etc.

  • Service Conditions: The state government will ensure that the average hours of duty of a police officer do not exceed 8 hours (in exceptional situations, 12 hours). Adequate insurance coverage will also be provided to personnel against any injury disability or death caused in line of duty. A Police Welfare Board must also be set up to administer and monitor welfare measures for police, including medical assistance, group housing, and legal aid for officers facing court proceedings.