From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Police Act 1861
Mains level : Paper 2- One nation, one police
Police reforms are still an unfinished task, fifteen years after the Supreme Court gave directives in the Prakash Singh case in 2006.
Integrated schemes in different facilities
- The Government of India has lately been talking of “One Nation, One Ration Card”, “One Nation, One Registry”, “One Nation, One Gas Grid”, and even “One Nation, One Election”.
- These ideas would contribute to an integrated scheme in different facilities and networks across the country.
- The attempt at uniformity should, however, take cognisance of local factors and special features.
Issue of different states passing different Police Act
- Every state is legislating a different Police Act, purportedly in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms given on September 22, 2006.
- We are in the process of having “one nation, many police acts”.
- Circumventing the Prakash Singh judgement: The objective behind these laws is to give legislative cover to the existing arrangement and thereby circumvent the judicial directions given in the Prakash Singh judgement in 2006.
- Eighteen states have already passed Police Acts.
- Absence of central guidelines: Several states have, in the absence of any central guidance or directive, passed their own Police Acts, blatantly violating the Supreme Court’s directions.
- No action by judiciary: The Supreme Court has, for inexplicable reasons, not issued a contempt notice to any of the states for non-compliance of its directions on police reforms.
1) The Centre should legislate a Model Police Act
- Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent.
- Soon after the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms, the Police Act Drafting Committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs came out with the Model Police Act, 2006.
- The Government of India should have enacted a law based on this Model Police Act with such changes as it may have found necessary, and the states should have mutatis mutandis ( making necessary alterations while not affecting the main point at issue) adopted it.
- The least that the Government of India could have done was to legislate for the UTs and then prevailed upon the states to pass similar legislation.
- Enacting a law in the states could have been incentivised by linking their passage with the modernisation grants made available to the states.
2) Need for the spirit of cooperative federalism
- In recent times, we saw the unseemly spectacle of the Mumbai police commissioner accusing the state home minister of using the police as an instrument for extortion.
- In West Bengal, the police have been a mute spectator to the post-election violence.
- The Centre, through a fiat, gave protection to all the MLAs of the BJP.
- Normally, any such arrangement should have been in consultation and with the involvement of the state government.
- Cooperative federalism: The best option would be for the central and state governments to respect each other’s turf in a spirit of cooperative federalism.
3)Need for a fresh look at the distribution of power
- If the central and state governments cannot respect each other’s turf, it would perhaps be necessary to have a fresh look at the distribution of powers in the seventh schedule of the Constitution.
Police reforms on the lines of judicial directives given by the Supreme Court is the need of the hour. The centre needs to act first and nudge the states toward a uniform police structure throughout the country.
Back2Basics: Supreme Court Directive on Police Reforms
1) Limit political control
- Constitute a State Security Commission to:
- Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
- Lay down broad policy guidelines.
- Evaluate the performance of the state police.
2. Appointments based on merit
- Ensure that the Director-General of Police is appointed through a merit–based, transparent process, and secures a minimum tenure of 2 years.
3. Fix minimum tenure
- 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 2 years.
4. Separate police functions
- Separate the functions of investigation and maintaining law and order.
5. Set up fair and transparent systems
- Set up a Police Establishment Board to decide and make recommendations on transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
6. Establish a Police Complaints Authority in each state
- At the state level, there should be a Police Complaints Authority to look into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody.
- At the district level, the Police Complaints Authority should be set up to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
7. Set up a selection commission
- A National Security Commission needs to be set up at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of chiefs of the Central Police Organizations with a minimum tenure of 2 years.