Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Building faith in India’s investigative agencies

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CBI

Mains level : Paper 2- Reforms in investigative bodies

Context

The image of the institution of police is regrettably tarnished by allegations of corruption, police excesses, lack of impartiality and close nexus with the political class.

Police and investigation agencies need social legitimacy

  • The police and investigative agencies may have de-facto legitimacy, but as institutions, they are yet to gain social legitimacy.
  • Police should work impartially and focus on crime prevention. They should also work in cooperation with the public to ensure law and order.
  • The CBI possessed immense trust of the public in its initial phase.
  • But with the passage of time, like every other institution of repute, the CBI has also come under deep public scrutiny.
  • The need of the hour is to reclaim social legitimacy and public trust.

Issues affecting the system and causing delay in trial

  • Lack of infrastructure, lack of sufficient manpower, inhuman conditions, especially at the lowest rung, lack of modern equipment, questionable methods of procuring evidence, officers failing to abide by the rule book and the lack of accountability of erring officers.
  • Then there are certain issues that lead to delays in trials.
  • They are: Lack of public prosecutors and standing counsels, seeking adjournments, arraying hundreds of witnesses and filing voluminous documents in pending trials, undue imprisonment of undertrials, change in priorities with the change in the political executive, cherry-picking of the evidence, and repeated transfers of officers leading to a change in the direction of the investigation.

Way forward

  • Break the nexus with political executive: The first step to reclaim social legitimacy and public trust.is to break the nexus with the political executive.
  • Reform of the police system is long overdue in our country.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has itself recognised the glaring need for the same in the “Status Note on Police Reforms in India”. 
  • Comprehensive law: Our investigative agencies still do not have the benefit of being guided by a comprehensive law.
  • Independent and autonomous investigative agency: The need of the hour is the creation of an independent and autonomous investigative agency.
  • Umbrella organisation: There is an immediate requirement for the creation of an independent umbrella institution, so as to bring various agencies like the CBI, SFIO, and ED under one roof.
  • This body is required to be created under a statute, clearly defining its powers, functions and jurisdictions.
  • Such a law will also lead to much-needed legislative oversight.
  • Separation of prosecution and investigation: One additional safeguard that needs to be built into the scheme, is to have separate and autonomous wings for prosecution and investigation, in order to ensure total independence.
  • Annual audit of performance: A provision in the proposed law for an annual audit of the performance of the institution by the appointing committee will be a reasonable check and balance.
  • Strengthening state investigative agencies: There is no reason why state investigative agencies, which handle most of the investigations, cannot enjoy the same level of credibility as that of the national agency.
  • The proposed Central law for the umbrella investigative body can be suitably replicated by the states.
  • Ensure women’s representation: An issue that needs addressing at this stage is the representation of women in the criminal justice system.
  • Often, women feel deterred in reporting certain offences due to a lack of representation.
  • Relations with community: Relations between the community and police also need to be fixed.
  • This is only possible if police training includes sensitisation workshops and interactions to inspire public confidence.

Consider the question “The police and investigative agencies may have de-facto legitimacy, but as institutions, they are yet to gain social legitimacy. In the context of this, examine the challenges faced by the police and the investigative agencies in India and suggest ways to help them gain social legitimacy.”

Conclusion

It is imperative for the police and the public to work together to create a safe society. Ultimately the police must remember that their allegiance must be to the Constitution and the rule of law and not to any person.

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