Crime and Pol­i­tics

Gfiles - - CONTENTS - ey NK SINGH

Twelve years ago, based on a writ filed by the au­thor and his col­league, the Supreme Court in­sisted on seven-point re­forms to get rid of the seven deadly sins that plagued the coun­try’s police forces. The de­bate rages on as the po­lit­i­cal class con­tin­ues to re­tain its stran­gle­hold over these agen­cies. It’s time for a rad­i­cal change – for politi­cians to un­der­stand the ur­gency, and for the ju­di­ciary to in­sist on their im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Twelve years ago, based on a writ filed by the au­thor and his col­league, the Supreme Court in­sisted on seven-point re­forms to get rid of the seven deadly sins that plagued the coun­try’s police forces. The de­bate rages on as the po­lit­i­cal class con­tin­ues to re­tain its stran­gle­hold over these agen­cies. It’s time for a rad­i­cal change – for politi­cians to un­der­stand the ur­gency, and for the ju­di­ciary to in­sist on their im­ple­men­ta­tion.

THE July 3, 2018, Supreme Court’s direc­tive on the ap­point­ment of the DGPs has re­vived the de­bate on Police re­forms. Re­ject­ing a petition for mod­i­fi­ca­tions of its Septem­ber 2006 judg­ment in Prakash Singh & Oth­ers case, the court re­it­er­ated that the states must con­sult UPSC for se­lect­ing their police chiefs. A DGP ap­pointed thus was re­quired to have a min­i­mum ten­ure of two years. The Cen­tre, rep­re­sented by At­tor­ney Gen­eral, had sub­mit­ted that of the 29 states in the Union, only five had fol­lowed the court’s di­rec­tion. The direc­tive has al­ready had de­sired ef­fect. The Pun­jab govern­ment has al­ready amended its rules to ap­point its DGP out of a panel of three names, rec­om­mended by the UPSC on mer­itcum-se­nior­ity. Ap­point­ment of DGPs formed a part of the 7-point police re­forms men­tioned by the apex court in its Septem­ber 2006 judg­ment. The other six di­rec­tives are as fol­lows:

1. State Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sion

The state gov­ern­ments were di­rected to con­sti­tute such a com­mis­sion in each state “to en­sure that the state govern­ment does not ex­er­cise un­war­ranted in­flu­ence or pres­sure on the state police and for lay­ing down the broad pol­icy guide­lines so that state police al­ways acted ac­cord­ing to the laws of the land and the Con­sti­tu­tion of the coun­try.” This ‘watch­dog body’ was to be headed by the Chief Min­is­ter or the Home Min­is­ter and the DGP of the state was to be its ex-of­fi­cio Sec­re­tary.

2. Min­i­mum ten­ure of IGP and other Of­fi­cers

Police Of­fi­cers on op­er­a­tional du­ties in the field, like IG, Zone, DIG, range, District SP. and SHO, were also re­quired to have min­i­mum pre­scribed ten­ure of two years. This would be sub­ject to pro­mo­tion and re­tire­ment of the of­fi­cer.

3. Sep­a­ra­tion of In­ves­ti­gat­ing Police

The In­ves­ti­gat­ing Police was to be sep­a­rated from Law and Or­der police, sub­ject to full co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the two wings, and, to start with, to be in­tro­duced in ur­ban\town ar­eas with a pop­u­la­tion of ten lakh and more each.

4. Police Es­tab­lish­ment Board

There was to be a Police Es­tab­lish­ment Board in each state to de­cide all trans­fers, post­ings, pro­mo­tions and other ser­vice re­lated mat­ters of the of­fi­cers of the rank of Deputy SP and below. The board was to com­prise DGP, and four other se­nior of­fi­cers of the depart­ment, autho­rised to make rec­om­men­da­tions to the state govern­ment re­gard­ing trans­fer and post­ing of of­fi­cers of and above the rank of SP. The govern­ment was ex­pected to give due weight to these rec­om­men­da­tion and nor­mally ac­cept it.

5. Police Com­plaint Au­thor­ity

There was to be a Police Com­plaint Au­thor­ity at the state level and com­plaint au­thor­i­ties at the dis­tricts, to be headed by a retired High Court or Supreme Court judge at the state level

and District Ses­sions judge at the district level, with three to five mem­bers, from amongst retired civil ser­vants or police of­fi­cers. The district level au­thor­ity was to look into com­plaints of police ex­cesses, cus­to­dial deaths, and other such com­plaints, in re­spect of police of­fi­cers, of and below the rank of DSP. Sim­i­lar was to be the duty of the state level au­thor­ity in re­spect of com­plaints against of­fi­cers of the rank of SP and above.

6. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sion

The Cen­tral Govern­ment was to set up a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sion to pre­pare a panel for be­ing placed be­fore the ap­pro­pri­ate Ap­point­ing Au­thor­ity for se­lec­tion and place­ment of chiefs of the Cen­tral Police Or­gan­i­sa­tions, who should also be given a min­i­mum ten­ure of two years. On 3 Jan­uary, 2007, some states and the Cen­tre filed af­fi­davits on the com­pli­ance of the Supreme Court or­ders. While a few small states re­ported com­pli­ance, though may be wa­tered down, the ma­jor ones gen­er­ally, quiv­ered. The bot­tom line is that the po­lit­i­cal class and sec­tions of bu­reau­cracy are op­posed to most of the police re­forms be­cause they have vested in­ter­est in the colo­nial sys­tem, in­her­ited from the Bri­tish, which give them enor­mous pow­ers to use or mis­use the police for their own po­lit­i­cal or even per­sonal agenda. Hence, they have re­sisted moves which may lead to their los­ing their stran­gle­hold over the police. No won­der, when In­de­pen­dence came and they pro­mul­gated a Con­sti­tu­tion es­tab­lish­ing a par­lia­men­tary democ­racy, with rule of law, they con­tin­ued the colo­nial police sys­tem geared to serve the po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity, rather than be ac­count­able to law and the Con­sti­tu­tion. They opted for the Bri­tish par­lia­men­tary form of govern­ment, but were, and still are, re­luc­tant to adopt their police sys­tem. .They are happy to con­tinue with Police Act of 1861, passed by Bri­tish Par­lia­ment in the wake of the 1857 move­ment, which was de­signed to sub­serve the agenda of the govern­ment. The act, still sub­stan­tially in vogue in most places, gives the govern­ment the power of ‘su­per­in­ten­dence’ over the police, which the colo­nial rulers used to shift police loy­alty from the rule of law to the rulers. The demo­cratic gov­ern­ments of free In­dia have not lagged be­hind, and crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of pol­i­tics, which the Vohra Com­mit­tee high­lighted, has made things worse. A time came when, dur­ing Emer­gency, they fell vic­tims to such a police sys­tem. It is then that they woke to the need of Police Re­forms. The emer­gence of post-Emer­gency politi- cal lead­ers, no­tably Chaudhry Cha­ran Singh, who had a vi­sion for a healthy police sys­tem suited to a demo­cratic set up, helped mat­ters. The Janata Party govern­ment, led by Mo­rarji De­sai in 1977, con­sti­tuted a Na­tional Police Com­mis­sion, with the for­mer Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary and West Ben­gal Gov­er­nor, Dharma Vira as its head. It in­cluded NK Reddy, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, MS Gore, pro­fes­sor, Tata In­sti­tute of So­cial Sciences, and em­i­nent police of­fi­cers such as KF Rus­tamji, NS Sax­ena, and for­mer Di­rec­tor of CBI, CV Nar­simhan.

IT was asked, in­ter alia, “to re­de­fine the role, du­ties, pow­ers and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of police with spe­cial ref­er­ence to preven­tion and con­trol of crime and main­te­nance of pub­lic or­der, and sug­gest ap­pro­pri­ate changes in the sys­tem and ba­sic laws gov­ern­ing the sys­tem”. The Com­mis­sion pro­duced eight re­ports be­tween 1979 and 1981, and made rec­om­men­da­tions for through re­forms that were aimed at mak­ing a police suit­able for a demo­cratic sys­tem by in­su­lat­ing it from po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence. The Janata Party, how­ever, had a short life and was re­placed by the Indira Gandhi govern­ment in early 1980. The re­port of the Com­mis­sion car­ried the stigma of the pre­vi­ous regime, was shelved, and gath­ered dust. In 1997 came the Judg­ment of Supreme Court in the Vi­neet Narain case. The court went into the prob­lem of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in the work­ings of the in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies, like CBI and Depart­ment of Rev­enue In­tel­li­gence at the Cen­tre, and made the ob­ser­va­tion that there was an ur­gent need for the state gov­ern­ments to set up a cred­i­ble mech­a­nism for the se­lec­tion of the police chiefs. It added that the sit­u­a­tion de­scribed in the Na­tional

The police to­day is far bet­ter equipped with com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works and trans­port sys­tems that are more so­phis­ti­cated Yet, the peo­ple are not happy with the police, and the lat­ter has failed to gain the con­fi­dence of large sec­tions of the peo­ple

Police Com­mis­sion’s Re­port (1979) about state of police was alarm­ing and must be cured, if the rule of law was to pre­vail in the coun­try. En­cour­aged by the above de­vel­op­ments, Prakash Singh, for­mer Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Border Se­cu­rity Force, and I filed a writ Petition in April 1996 in the Supreme Court un­der Ar­ti­cle 32 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. The or­der came af­ter over 10 years in Septem­ber 2006, and gave di­rec­tions to the Cen­tre and states to im­ple­ment the above-men­tioned seven core re­forms. The apex court made it clear that it was is­su­ing the di­rec­tives un­der pow­ers vested in it un­der Ar­ti­cle 34, read with Ar­ti­cle 114 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. As the strug­gle for police re­forms con­tin­ues, there is no deny­ing that things have changed. Com­pared with the ear­lier times, the re­sponses of the police are far bet­ter. The level of police train­ing has im­proved. In crime de­tec­tion and in­ves­ti­ga­tion work, its meth­ods and ap­proach are more sci­en­tific and mod­ern, and we can claim to have caught-up with the ad­vanced coun­tries. The police to­day is far bet­ter equipped with com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works and trans­port sys­tems that are more so­phis­ti­cated Yet, the peo­ple are not happy with the police, and the lat­ter has failed to gain the con­fi­dence of large sec­tions. They, in­clud­ing em­i­nent citizens of the coun­try, con­tend that they do not trust the police. This is largely in re­spect of state police forces, and most of the rec­om­men­da­tions of Na­tional Police Com­mis­sion were meant for them. The ‘Police’ and ‘Pub­lic Or­der’ are sub­jects in State List, thus giv­ing ju­ris­dic­tion to the state leg­is­la­tures over the police. In fact, com­par­a­tively, peo­ple are much bet­ter dis­posed to­ward, the BSF and CRPF, whose per­son­nel are of­ten mar­tyred on the borders or on na­tional se­cu­rity du­ties. In crime in­ves­ti­ga­tion works, even to­day, there are de­mands for CBI in­ves­ti­ga­tions in cases such as the Unao rape and mur­der, Muz­zafer­pur shel­ter home scams, and killings of hu­man right­ists, like Gouri Lankesh.

IT ap­pears that a three-front at­tack is re­quired to give the push to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of police re­forms. In the first place, the po­lit­i­cal class needs to be ed­u­cated and en­light­ened re­gard­ing the de­mar­ca­tion be­tween its ju­ris­dic­tion over police work, with­out curb­ing its pow­ers. In this area, or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Com­mon­wealth Ini­tia­tive for Hu­man Rights can play a big role. Se­condly, some of the gen­uine ap­pre­hen­sions of po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity need to be taken care of. They don’t want to be ham­strung by rules com­ing in the way of dis­charg­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Fi­nally, ef­forts need to be made at the high­est court for their own di­rec­tives im­ple­mented. NK Singh, IPS, is for­mer Joint Di­rec­tor, CBI, who retired as DGBP (R&D); he is cur­rently Mem­ber, Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive, Janata Dal (United).

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