Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

[op-ed snap] Reform, not compliance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Torture - UN Convention


Common Cause’s recent survey on the Status of Policing in India affirmed that some in the police force find nothing wrong with beating up criminals to extract a confession. 

Torture – mechanisms against it 

    • Torture is not justified under any circumstance. It is a wound in the soul that demeans society.
    • UN convention – India signed the UN Convention Against Torture in 1997, but is yet to ratify it by enacting the law on torture. 
    • Instruments to deal with torture – there are instruments in place to take immediate action in torture cases. 
      • Any custodial or other cases of death in police custody is enquired by a magistrate and in some cases, a judicial inquiry
      • Criminal cases can also be instituted against the accused policemen. 
    • Actions taken – Complaints against policemen have been filed in courts, which have taken severe action in such cases. 
    • Infrastructure –  Installation of CCTV cameras covering hawalat rooms in police stations has been made mandatory. 
    • NHRC – National Human Rights Commission acts as the watchdog of human rights. 

To do

    • Justice to victims – The state must ensure that they deliver justice to the victims of human rights abuse. 
    • Police Complaints Authority – Government must implement the Supreme Court’s directive on setting up a Police Complaints Authority in every state of India.
    • Ratify convention – The Law Commission of India in its 273rd report recommended that the government ratify the convention. 
    • Prevention of Torture Bill – The Commission also presented a draft of the bill to the government.

Treaty not panacea

    • Cases of police torture still surface in all the 160 nations that have enacted laws on torture to ratify the treaty. 
    • Case of Pakistan – Detainee torture and custodial deaths remain at a disturbingly high level in Pakistan (signed and ratified the convention). 
    • China signed and ratified the treaty. Yet, the country is condemned for horrific state repression while interrogating detainees and suppressing political dissent. 

Reality of policing

    • Poor Infrastructure
      • Police stations in outlying rural areas lack even the basic technology, forensic aid and materials for crime detection. 
      • Many of them are located in signal gap zones, where mobile phones barely work and internet connectivity is weak or non-existent. 
      • The roads are unmotorable. 
      • A single big police station looks after 70 to 80 villages in large states.
      • The building infrastructure in many cases is still poor and unliveable — forget about interrogation or detention cells. 
    • Manpower deficit – India’s police force is grossly overworked. 
    • Political interference – The heavy pendency of work is coupled with brazen political interference. 
    • Work stress is inordinately high and the quality of life poor and demotivating. 
    • Rate of detection – The urgency to improve the crime detection rate is a matter of constant worry. 
    • All this does make the police lose patience in trying to bring cases to a quick culmination.

Way ahead to tackle the problem

    • Infrastructure – 
      • All police stations need to be provided with modern-day amenities and connectivity. 
      • A dire need is state-of-the-art technology and equipment to promote hassle-free interrogation and crime detection. 
    • Training – The police force needs to be trained at regular intervals and special training should be imparted to the state police personnel by the CBI on questioning suspects. 
    • Criminal justice system – Working on the long-pending gaps in the criminal justice system may disincentivise torture. 
      • Separation of the law and order and investigation wings at police stations
      • Strengthening the prosecution apparatus 
      • Provision of legal advisors in the district police set up
    • A sustained focus on Ease of Doing Policing and measures for empowering the police within a well-established accountability framework could prove to be the biggest step towards reducing this practice. 
    • The recruitment process for the police has to be equipped with modern psychoanalytic tools to shun the entry of those with a grain of brutality.


The ratification of the UN convention against torture needs to be done in letter and spirit. Unless we upgrade our infrastructure, ramp up our capacities, strengthen our police force, enacting the Prevention of Torture Bill will be just another exercise of official compliance to free our conscience.

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