[op-ed snap] A cop out

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Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Police Acts

Mains level: The article deals with the important issues related to the  reforms in Indian Police Reforms


News

CONTEXT

It is indeed a tragedy that while the country is forging ahead in different spheres to build a new India, its policing remains mired in a colonial structure. The Acts passed by the states are crude attempts to circumvent the implementation of judicial directions.

Disappointment with police reforms

  • There have been no reformative changes in the police with a view to transforming it into an instrument of service to the people.

1.Supreme Court’s Judgement on police reforms

  • The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in 2006, clearly said that “the commitment, devotion and accountability of the police has to be only to the rule of law”.
  • The supervision and control has to be such that it ensures that the police serves the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive measures.
  • The Court issued a slew of directions with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences, giving it a measure of autonomy in personnel matters and making it more accountable.
  • It is a great pity that even after 12 years, there has been only partial and, in some states, farcical compliance of the directions.

2. Who is responsible for delays?

A.Centre’s Response

  • The states are primarily to blame.
  • the Centre cannot escape responsibility for its indifference and inaction in the matter.
  • The Police Act Drafting Committee headed by Soli Sorabjee had prepared a Model Police Act in 2006.
  • The expectation was that the Centre would pass an Act on similar lines for Delhi and the Union Territories and that the same model would be adopted at least in those states where the same party held office.
  • Besides, Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent and lays down that such an Act shall apply to the consenting states “and to any other by which it is adopted through a resolution passed in that behalf by the House or, where there are two Houses, by each of the Houses of the legislature of that State”.
  • Till this day, the Government of India has not taken any definitive action on Sorabjee’s Model Police Act.

B.State’s Response

  • In the absence of any initiative by the Centre, the states, 17 of them so far, have gone amok with their separate police Acts
  • It is ironical that while the British India had one police Act for the entire country, we are confronted with a situation where every state has a different Act with sharp differences in essential features.

Responses on delaying of reforms

  • Justice K T Thomas, who was appointed by the Supreme Court in 2008 to monitor the implementation of its directions, expressed his “dismay over the total indifference (of the states) to the issue of reforms in the functioning of police”.
  • Justice J S Verma, who submitted a comprehensive report on amendments to criminal law in 2012, urged the “states to comply with all six Supreme Court’s directives in order to tackle systemic problems in policing”.

Conclusion

  • The prime minister, while addressing the police chiefs of the country in Guwahati in 2014, raised hopes when he talked of building a SMART police — a police, which would be sensitive, mobile, accountable, responsive and techno-savvy.
  • There has hardly been any follow up action and only some cosmetic steps were taken to augment the manpower and infrastructure of the forces.
  • It is indeed a tragedy that while the country is forging ahead in different spheres to build a new India, its policing remains mired in a colonial structure.
  • The Acts passed by the states are crude attempts to circumvent the implementation of judicial directions.
  • The Supreme Court has also, for inexplicable reasons, not cracked the whip so far.

 

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