Under the Indian Constitution, policing is a state power, which means that state governments have the responsibility to provide their communities with a police service (the national government has the responsibility for policing in union territories). Most state governments have a police law that adopts or reflects the basic ideas of the 1861 legislation.
Many committees have submitted several reports on police reforms but they generally went unimplemented.
Problems with existing Policing system –
1. The police does not have functional responsibility while remaining under the supervision of the political executive.
2. Political control of police by the political executive is not conditioned and is not kept within its legitimate bounds.
3. Internal management systems are not fair and transparent.
4. Policing efficiencies have decreased in terms of their core functions.
5. Public complaints are not addressed properly and police accountability is comparatively less.
National police commission-
The National Police Commission appointed by the government in 1977 felt that “far reaching changes have taken place in the country” since independence but “there has been no comprehensive review of the police system after independence despite radical changes in the political, social and economic situation in the country”. The government’s response to the core recommendations of the National Police Commission was unfortunately negative.
Supreme Court directives-
None of the major recommendations of NPC were adopted by any government. This persuaded two former Director General’s of Police (DGPs) in 1996 to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court asking the Court to direct governments to implement the NPC recommendations. In the course of the 10 year long case, in 1998 the Court set up the Ribeiro Committee which handed in its reports in 1999. This was followed by the Padmanabhaiah Committee report in 2000 and eventually the Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC or Soli Sorabjee Committee) that drafted a new model police bill to replace the colonial 1861 Police Act. In 2006, the Supreme Court of India delivered a historic judgment in Prakash Singh vs. Union of India, instructing central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives that laid down practical mechanisms to kick-start police reform. The directives are –
1. Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:
a. Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
b. Lay down broad policy guideline and
c. Evaluate the performance of the state police
2. Ensure that the DGP is appointed through merit based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
3. Ensure that other police officers on 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.
4. Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
5. Set up a 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 Deputy Superintendent of Police
6. Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police 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 the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
7. Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.
In May 2008 the Supreme Court set up the three- member Monitoring Committee to look at the implementation of the Court’s directives by the Governments. The committee is headed by Justice K.T. Thomas- a retired judge of the Supreme Court.
Based on the report of the Committee the Apex Court at its hearing on 8 November 2010, took serious note of the lack of compliance and issued notices to the four errant states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnataka asking their Chief Secretaries to appear before the Court at the next hearing to clarify as to why the directions given in its order of September, 2006, have not been complied with.
It is widely accepted that it is untenable to continue to police the citizens of India under the Police Act of 1861, which was drafted by the colonial authorities close on the heels of the first War of Indian Independence in 1857.
The National Police Commission in its 8th and concluding report of 1981, submitted a new Police Bill for India. Thereafter in 2005 the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted the Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC) to draft a Model Police Bill for India. Very shortly after the Supreme Court delivered its judgment, the PADC submitted its draft Model Police Bill, 2006 to the Home Ministry. This draft bill was also circulated among all state governments. It was hoped that state governments would enact their own police legislation whilst drawing on the best elements from the PADC’s Model Police Bill, the NPC’s Model Police Bill and the Supreme Court directives on police reform. This however never happened and almost seven years after the Supreme Court judgment as well as the Model Police Bill being submitted to the union government and union territories still have no new Police Act.