From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much.
Mains level : Paper 2- Need for the police reforms.
Political parties across the spectrum escape the blame for continuing to use the police as an instrument to further their political agenda.
The backdrop of violence in protest against CAA in Delhi
- The culmination of dithering by police: It was the culmination of weeks of dithering and selective action on the part of the Delhi Police in dealing with those agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
- No preventive action is taken: No preventive action appears to have been taken, and when the national capital was rocked by agitators in different areas the police appeared to have been caught by surprise.
- Hesitation in acting against the rioters: There appeared to be hesitation on the part of the police in taking firm action against the rioters who continued to be on the rampage, destroying public and private property.
- There was a disturbing scene of a rioter openly brandishing his firearm at a policeman.
Disturbing patterns in the Police actions
- Delhi Police- The extremes of action and inaction: The Delhi Police is the best-resourced police in the country.
- It is looked upon as a model by state police forces across the country. Its response, in fact, shows a disturbing pattern.
- There have been extremes of action and inaction.
- Forcible entry: In Jamia Millia Islamia, the police is alleged to have entered the campus forcibly and roughed up students after their march against the CAA turned violent.
- Inexplicable delay: In JNU, there was an inexplicable delay in responding to violence by a group of outsiders within the campus.
- Bengal Police-Turning blind eye to rioters’vandalism: In West Bengal, with Mamata Banerjee leading the charge against the CAA, the message to the police was clear.
- They turned Nelson’s eye to rioters’ vandalising government and private property; the Eastern Railways alone suffered a loss of Rs 72.19 crore.
- Uttar Pradesh Police- Excesses committed during protests.
- In UP, where over 20 people were killed, the Allahabad High Court has called for a detailed report on the alleged police excesses.
- Karnataka Police- Over-zealousness.
- In Karnataka, the High Court has blamed the Mangaluru police of “over-zealousness” in dealing with the anti-CAA protests.
- Party bias in the Police actions: Police response invariably reflects the bias of the ruling party.
- The partisan police response to situations, which were strikingly similar, has caused dismay and consternation among the people.
- One must get to the root of the problem.
Observations and the Supreme Court guidelines
- National Police Commission observation: The National Police Commission recorded as far back as 1979 that “the present culture of the police system appears a continuation of what obtained under the British regime when the police functioned ruthlessly as an agent for sustaining the government in power”.
- In such a situation, the Commission went on to say, “police find it difficult to play their lawful role and make their performance acceptable to the people at large”.
- The Supreme Court directions: The Supreme Court issued a set of six directions in 2006 to state governments with a view to transforming the ethos and working philosophy of the police.
- Setting up the State Security Commission: The SC’s most important direction was about setting up of a State Security Commission with a view to insulate the police from external pressures.
- It is true that several states have enacted laws purportedly in compliance with the Supreme Court’s orders.
- Recommendation not supported in letter and spirit: But these acts, as their critical examination reveals, violate the letter and spirit of the judicial directions. The old order continues for all practical purposes.
- The Justice Dhingra Committee report on anti-Sikh riots: In its recently released report on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the report slammed the Union government and the Delhi Police.
- It observed that a large number of crimes remained unpunished for the simple reason that there was “lack of interest shown by the police and by the authorities in handling these cases as per law or to proceed with the intention of punishing the culprits”.
- The effort of the police and the administration “seems to have been to hush up the criminal cases concerning riots”.
- Implement the recommendations of NPC: It is unfortunate that the NPC recommendations have not been acted upon even after the Supreme Court’s directions. No wonder, in the recent agitation in different states, the police have acted in the manner they did.
- Interference of the political parties need to be reduced: The police are, no doubt, to blame for not being able to function in an objective and impartial manner. There is definitely a failure of leadership also. The political leadership need to ensure the autonomy of the police.
- Role of media: The media cannot escape its responsibility for treating the police as a convenient punching bag from time to time and not taking up the cause of police reforms as aggressively as it should be doing.
- Introspection by the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court would also need to introspect as to why the implementation of its directions has been so ineffective.