There are a number of structural issues that have been raised by experts over the years related to police forces. We discuss a few of these below.
(i) Overburdened police force
Apart from the core function of maintaining law and order, police personnel carry out various other functions such as traffic management, disaster rescue and removal of encroachments. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) has noted that these extra obligations lead to overburdening of the police force. It recommended that these functions should be carried out by other government departments or private agencies. Note that as of January 2016, 24 per cent of sanctioned police posts in India were vacant. This indicates that police personnel may be overburdened, which may have negative consequences on their efficiency and performance.
(ii) Poor quality of investigation
In 2015, the conviction rate for crimes recorded under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was only 47%. The Law Commission (2012) observed that one of the reasons for low conviction rates in India is poor quality of investigation by police. The police lack training and expertise required to conduct professional investigations. They also have insufficient legal knowledge and inadequate forensic and cyber infrastructure. In light of these deficiencies, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) recommended that states should have specialised investigation units within the police force for better investigation of crimes.
(iii) Police accountability
In India, control over the police force vests with the political executive. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) noted that this has to led to abuse of police personnel and interference with their decision-making authority. To allow the police operational autonomy while maintaining accountability, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to the central government and state governments (and Union Territories) in the year 2006.
The guidelines provided for the establishment of three institutions: (i) a State Security Commission, (ii) a Police Establishment Board, and (iii) a Police Complaints Authority. The Supreme Court also stated that the state Director General of Police (DGP) should be selected from three senior-most officers of the state empanelled by the Union Public Service Commission and must have a minimum two-year tenure.
In addition, the court recommended that officers in key positions in the field (Inspector General in charge of Range, Station House Officer) must be given a two-year tenure. Currently, DGPs and senior officers are selected by the political executive of the state and are not guaranteed security of tenure. In order to improve the quality of investigation, the Court recommended that investigating police must be separated from law and order police.
These guidelines and recommendations of other expert bodies were used to create the draft Model Police Bill, 2015 by BPR&D, which states have been encouraged to adopt. While states have partially implemented some of these guidelines, no state has adhered to them in full. In most states, the three institutions which the Supreme Court has directed states to create have not been given the authority they need to ensure accountability and insulate the police force from political misuse.
Model Police Act, 2006
(iv) Constabulary related issues
The constabulary constitutes 86% of the state police forces. A constable’s responsibilities are wide-ranging, and are not limited to basic tasks. For example, a constable is expected to exercise his own judgement in tasks like intelligence gathering, and surveillance work, and report to his superior officers regarding significant developments. He assists with investigations, and is also the first point of contact for the public. Therefore, a constable is expected to have some analytical and decision-making capabilities, and the ability to deal with people with tact, understanding and firmness.
The Padmanabhaiah Committee and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that the entry level qualifications (i.e. completion of class 10th or 12th in many states) and training of constables do not qualify them for their role. One of the recommendations made in this regard has been to raise the qualification for entry into the civil police to class 12th or graduation. It has also been recommended that constables, and the police force in general, should receive greater training in soft skills (such as communication, counselling and leadership) given they need to deal with the public regularly.
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has further noted that the promotion opportunities and working conditions of constables are poor, and need to be improved. Generally, a constable in India can expect only one promotion in his lifetime, and normally retires as a head constable, which weakens his incentive to perform well. The Commission recommended that the orderly system be abolished across states.
Importance of providing housing to the constabulary (and generally to the police force) to improve their efficiency and incentive to accept remote postings has also been emphasised by expert bodies, such as the National Police Commission. This is because in remote and rural areas, private accommodation may not be easily available on rent. Even in metropolitan areas, rents may be prohibitively high, and adequate accommodation may not be available in the immediate vicinity of the police stations affecting their operational efficiency.
The Standing Committee on Home Affairs (Chair: Mr. Anand Sharma) presented its report on ‘Police - Training, Modernisation and Reforms’ in 2022.
Key observations and recommendations of the Committee include:
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