By Mounica Kasturi, Symbiosis Law School, Pune
“Editor’s Note: The criminal justice system of a nation must be efficient in order to ensure that crime is curbed in a society. For effectively implementing the penal laws, a well-trained and efficient police system is needed. However, the police system of India is plagued with numerous problems. Although the judiciary has tried to bring in some reforms in the form of guidelines, the need of the hour is a pro-active approach by the legislature, in moulding colonial laws to suit the present times.”
‘The police force is far from efficient, it is defective in training and organization, it is inadequately supervised, it is generally regarded as corrupt and oppressive, and it has utterly failed to secure the confidence and cordial cooperation of the people’
– A.H.L.Fraser, Chairman of the Second Police Commission (1902)
Though these observations were made in the year 1902, while reviewing the colonial law- The Police Act of 1861, they aptly describe the present scenario as well. Governments today are failing in their primary duty to provide the public with an honest, efficient, effective police service that ensures the rule of law and an environment of safety and security. According the UN International Crime Victims’ Survey when the faith of the people in the police was considered, India ranks way below the international average.
The global average ratio of police-population is 270 to 100,000, while it is 120 in India. With far less police and less accountability, people of India are the least secure people in the world. These statistics are clear enough to understand the pressing need for reforms in our country.
PROBLEMS WITH THE POLICE SYSTEM
The first and the fore most aspect that deserves considerable attention is the Police Act. The act we follow was drafted by the colonial masters whose aim was to hold the police like puppets in their hands to facilitate easy administrative control. The police was raised on a militaristic and authoritarian pattern. The system did not require the constabulary to put on their thinking caps while performing their duties; they blindly had to obey the orders of those in senior ranks. After Independence, the State Police Acts which were formulated by each state were drafted on similar lines as that of the English law without filling in the lacunae. Further, as time passed by, criminalisation of politics became rampant. The current police act makes police accountable to the executive which may consist of a bunch of criminals.
The defects in the existing system were aptly highlighted and deliberated upon by various committees such as the Soli Sorabjee committee, Malimath Committee and others. The Supreme Court has exercised activism and time and again by trying to remedy these defects through various guidelines as in the case of DK Basu v. State of West Bengal[i] and Prakash Singh v. State[ii].
However, the endeavours have not been successful to a large extent. This is because a strong political will should be a beacon leading reforms. The central government always had the option of implementing the important recommendations of the National Police Commission by introducing that model Police Bill in the Union Territories. If it had done so, it would have acquired the moral authority to ask the state governments to follow suit. It never did that and thus failed to convince the state governments about its genuineness in implementing the NPC’s recommendations.
SOLUTIONS FOR THE AILING POLICE SYSTEM
Apart from adeptly implementing feasible recommendations from various committees and redrafting the police acts, new models to increase accountability have to be entrenched.
The Goa police has decided to implement the crime and criminal tracking network and systems (CCTNS) towards enhancing outcomes in criminal investigations, tracking criminals, and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of police departments. This system can be accessed by citizens through multiple, transparent, and easily accessible channels (portal, mobile, call centre, etc.) in a citizen-friendly manner. Citizens can also file their complaint sitting at home, and can keep track of their application and complaints. This should be seen as a phantom leap in increasing democratic accountability of police.
Furthermore, UK has a police support volunteers scheme, where the general public help the constabulary with their constant support. Volunteers bring in their skills, talent, and local knowledge and help in extending an excellent policing service to local communities.[iii] This can be implemented in India as well, by taking the youth’s participation to tackle and prevent crimes.
It is of prime importance to understand that reforms in the police system can happen effectively with the collective effort of the executive, judiciary, legislature and public. The huge reservoir of trained manpower, more than two million in strength can become a very important catalyst of positive change in society provided they are made to serve the rule of law and held accountable.
Edited by Kudrat Agrawal
[i] AIR 1997 SC 610
[ii] (2006) 8 SCC 1