From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Prakash Singh Judgment
Mains level : Police reforms
Political interference in police postings continues despite the landmark Prakash Singh judgment nearly a decade-and-a-half ago that addressed the issue and was pegged to be a watershed moment in police reforms.
Politics is a perplexing, but fascinating game. It takes ages to unravel the intricate secrets that shroud the kernel of closed room politics. But contrary has happened with the Maharashtra Police.
What is the SC’s Prakash Singh judgment on police reforms?
- Prakash Singh, who served as DGP of UP Police and Assam Police besides other postings, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court post-retirement, in 1996, seeking police reforms.
- In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court in September 2006 had directed all states and Union Territories to bring in police reforms.
- The ruling issued a series of measures that were to be undertaken by the governments to ensure the police could do their work without worrying about any political interference.
What measures were suggested by the Supreme Court?
- The seven main directives from the Supreme Court in the verdict were fixing the tenure and selection of the DGP to avoid situations where officers about to retire in a few months are given the post.
- In order to ensure no political interference, a minimum tenure was sought for the Inspector General of Police so that they are not transferred mid-term by politicians.
- The SC further directed postings of officers being done by Police Establishment Boards (PEB) comprising police officers and senior bureaucrats to insulate powers of postings and transfers from political leaders.
- Further, there was a recommendation of setting up the State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) to give a platform where common people aggrieved by police action could approach.
- Apart from this, the SC directed the separation of investigation and law and order functions to better improve policing, setting up State Security Commissions (SSC) that would have members from civil society and forming a National Security Commission.
How did states respond to these directives?
- The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), in its report of 2020 has some useful data.
- It tracked changes made in the police force following the 2006 judgment.
- It has found that not even one state was fully compliant with the apex court directives and that while 18 states passed or amended their Police Acts in this time, not one fully matches legislative models.
What has been the response of the Supreme Court to these issues?
- Prakash Singh said that he has followed up on these issues and has had nearly five contempt petitions issued in the past decades to states found to be non-compliant.
- Singh said that bigger states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and UP have been the worst when it comes to bringing about systemic changes in line with the judgment and that it is only the North-Eastern states that have followed the suggested changes in spirit.
- Singh said states like Maharashtra make their own laws that are not effective.
- The need of the hour is an all-India Act that all states have to follow and small changes can be made in exceptional cases relating to the situation in a particular state.