Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

[op-ed snap] For a humane and autonomous police

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Policing challenges

Context

These are tumultuous times for the Indian police in their bid to maintain law and order. After losing the debate inside Parliament, certain elements have chosen to take some contentious issues out to the streets.

Binary picture

  • Protests and demonstrations form the core of democracy and are unexceptionable as long as they do not disrupt the life of the common man or cause damage to public property. 
  • In an ideal world, we may expect this clear-cut theoretical proposition to work perfectly. 
  • But in the raw violence-prone streets of the present times, this clinical allocation of respective space repeatedly proved to be mere pontification. 
  • Some media reporting has tended to be one-sided, tending to portray the police as the villain of the piece and the protesters as harmless and pacifist. 
  • This binary picture is blind to the truism that the police do enjoy a measure of operational autonomy, free from the dictates of other state agencies.

Shadow of politics

  • It is too simplistic to look upon the police as merely an agency that has been caught in the crossfire between the establishment and protesters. 
  • The vicissitudes of politics over the decades have deprived police the luxury of resting on the statute book and responding to a developing situation.
  • They will now have to be proactive and react within split seconds to an incendiary situation arising from contentious political situations. 
  • While doing so they are bound to overstep the contours of law. 

Campuses

  • It is fallacy to argue that the police cannot enter campuses unless they are invited to do so by heads of institutions.
  • In Jamia Millia, the police appeared to have taken the initiative when no such invitation was forthcoming. 
  • There is no law that prohibits such police entry on their own, and any attempt to frame such a law will be preposterous to the core. 
  • The police are obligated under law to intervene wherever and whenever they apprehend danger to lives.
  • The statement of the English jurist, Lord Denning says “… (it) is for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, or the chief constable, as the case may be, …….to decide on the disposition of his force and the concentration of his resources on any particular crime or area. No court can or should give him direction on such a matter…”

On the measure of force

  • Another bone of contention relates to the quantum of force that the police can use in quelling disorder. 
  • There is no scientific formula that applies to explosive scenes that have become routine in the national capital.
  • The amount of force used in such situations can vary significantly and will be related mainly to the strength of the mob, its composition, its mood and the kind of weapons it has at its command. 
  • The use of stones has become the most favorite, because of ease of availability and potency. 
  • To say that the police or any security agency should not overreact to this kind of barbarity is unfair.
  • Mob control techniques are a part of the police curriculum in major training institutions. Their impact depends on the imaginative nature of the instruction. 
  • In the wake of violence across the country, police leadership should concentrate on this important aspect of policing.

Conclusion

  • In a democracy such as ours, we certainly need civilized and humane police. 
  • This should not dilute the need to have a potent force that will not hesitate to use the resources at its command.
  • It should re-emphasize the dictum that democracy can flourish only when violence is checked and not allowed to hold sway. 
  • There is a crucial need for senior police officers to devote time to improving the quality of policing in the field, instead of frittering away their energies in concentrating on “politician management”.
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