Police Reforms

Police Reforms

A petition has been filed in SC which seeks direction to the Centre, State governments and the Law Commission to implement police reforms and the Model Police Act, 2006 to ensure an “effective and impartial police system.”

Initiation of reforms

  • The National Police Commission (1977-79), set up by the Janata government kick-started the police reforms.
  • And the credit for keeping the debate alive and taking it to the highest judicial forum goes to former Director General of Police (DGP) of Uttar Pradesh and a former Border Security Force chief, Prakash Singh Badal who filed a PIL in 1996 and sought major changes to the police structure.
  • There was a need to begin the police reforms with more autonomy to police and more space for police professionalism by giving a fixed tenure for police officers in crucial positions beginning with the DGPs in the States.
  • This reform road began with the time consuming process of consultation with all states as police was a ‘state’ subject which culminated into SC’s 2006 direction in Prakash Singh versus Union of India.

Recommended police reforms

  1. Fixed tenure of two years for senior officers in crucial positions
  2. Setting up of a State Security Commission (in which the leader of the Opposition party also had a role)- to seal police forces from unwarranted political affluences, give policy directions to the police and evaluate performance of state police.
  3. The clear separation of law and order and crime functions of the police.
  4. Creation of a Police Establishment Board to regulate police placements.
  5. Appointments in top positions like DGP through a merit-based, transparent process.
  6. Establish a Police Complaints Authority to look into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
  7. A new Police Act on the basis of a model Act prepared by the Union government and to be circulated to the States.

Nobody listens to the highest court

  • However, three years later, SC had to say that not a single state was willing to cooperate with the orders. Several State governments were devising their own means to dilute the SC directions.
  • The states found that the court had stepped in mainly because there was no law on the subject, many States brought in quick legislation to water down the essentials of the Supreme Court direction.
  • On the face value, the new Police Acts appeared to be fully compliant with the judicial prescription. However, they were merely formulated to outwit the courts. It is seen from the fact that though DGPs are handed out a two-year tenure on paper, they are given marching orders midway into their tenure without any solid reason.
  • The objective of Police Establishment Board had been to depoliticise appointments and transfers. However, still DGPs get prior informal political approval from the Chief Minister/Home Minister with a view to have politically amenable officers in vital places in the police hierarchy.
  • The latest reaction of SC on no movement on police reforms shows its helplessness in the matter. The reaction of the SC characterises the pathetic state of affairs in public administration in the country.

Who is responsible?

  • As contrary to popular beliefs, there is not always a politician coming in front of police duties.
  • There do exist many dishonest policemen in every State police who get away with accusing the politician of preventing them from discharging their duties.
  • The reality is different as visible from pathetic state of police stations, lateness in responding to the common man, constantly complaining of getting bullied etc.
  • It is seen that police often ignore complaints and when they do take note of complaint, they often side with the aggressors. Many a times, the perpetrators have been treated as witnesses and victims of crime have been converted to be accused.
  • The petitions, requests, causes taken up in public interest such as additional traffic lights on busy junctions, finding the lost properties of people, action against policemen unnecessarily inflicting police excesses have been largely ignored by police officials responsible for it.
  • The callousness towards the common man’s simple, legitimate and uncomplicated requests have been regularly reported of being unheard by the police.
  • The excuse of preoccupation with law and order problems and inadequate manpower cannot fully explain the tendency for inaction that has become routine in policing.
  • This is the reason why the debate on police reforms sounds irrelevant and unappealing to the average citizen.

Can there be improvements?

  • It is true that many young IPS officers lose their idealism early in their careers, because of fear of vengeful politicians or disloyal subordinates. Also, there exists fear among the proactive and dedicated officers about reprisal over honest action against powerful men in society and politics.
  • But there is a limit to how much citizen can be satisfied with a non-performing police force. No doubt, there is a scope for measurable improvement in the quality of policing subject to positive actions from police leadership.
  • There should be motivation for self-correction within the police, a process initiated by the DGP and his aides. This will push the change in the manner in which policing is carried out in most parts of the country.


The arbitrary nature and unaccountable functioning of police has led to complete alienation of many citizens from the State. Adding to it, the politicisation of police force has have been habitually abusing their powers to drop serious criminal charges against their supporters and foist false cases against their opponents led to highly partisan crime investigation. These characterisation of police forces require a 360 degree turnaround in their orientation.

Until and unless, the demand from within the police force will not be heard to become more citizen-friendly and less politically motivated, police reforms inspite being a hand away, will continue to be at horizon.

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