Police Reforms In India: The Story So Far – (Updated)

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‘The police force is far from efficient, it is defective in training and organization, it is inadequately supervised, it is generally regarded as  corrupt and oppressive, and it has utterly failed to secure the confidence and cordial cooperation of the people’

                 – A.H.L.Fraser, Chairman of the Second Police Commission(1902)

Since 1902 little has changed. The Police Act of 1861 still guides and governs our police system. The colonial mindset of the police, the distrust people had for the police in British India has continued to date.

So far we have seen either bad reforms or no reforms in making the police relevant to  highly insecure India that is prone to various threats from both inside and outside its geopolitical borders.

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source: http://genderbytes.wordpress.com/

Even after a spate of terrorist attacks on our major cities, unfolding of a series of mega-scams, and serious internal threat from Maoists, the political class is less willing to loosen its grip on the police and let it ‘serve’ the people. The efforts to beef up security apparatus, strengthen the intelligence gathering ability, bring about coherence and coordination between different police and security agencies, modernizing the police force, enabling our cities with infrastructure to deter terrorist attacks, and most importantly making police people friendly – all these necessities have been met with lackadaisical attitude of political authorities and are mired in red-tapism.

Police in India, which is under the control of ruling parties, are blind to corruption at various levels and is itself a major partner in the crime.

Commissions, Committees and the Dustbin

Police is an exclusive subject under the State List ( List II, Schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution). States can enact any law on the subject of police. But most of the states are following the archaic Indian Police Act 1861 with a few modifications. Police have become the ‘subjects’ of Parliamentarians and legislators – with a high degree of politicization and allegiance towards ruling party.

Starting from the second Police Commission in 1902 headed by A.H.L. Fraser, there have been many commissions and committees formed to look into reforming the police in India.

Prominent among them are: Gore Committee on Police Training, the National Police Commission, The Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms, The Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms (summary), Prakash Singh Vs Union of India – SC directives for Police Reforms and Soli Sorabjee Committee.

The 22 September, 2006 verdict of the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh vs Union of India case was the landmark in the fight for police reforms in India. Unfortunately, even the directions of SC have not been implemented by the states.

Courting the Court

In 2006 the SC gave 7 binding directions to the states and Union Territories. The court ordered the states and UTs to implement the directions immediately either through legislation or executive order. But, the police – politician nexus is so much deep-rooted that states are reluctant to implement any of the directions. Last year (November 2010), the SC asked for the personal presence of Chief Secretaries of 4 major states(Karnataka, WB, Maharashtra and  UP) to learn the progress and give stern directions.

On April 12, 2013, the Supreme Court again sternly asked states and the Union government to furnish before it the details of actions taken by them in establishing Security Commissions as ordered by it in its 2006 verdict.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and Kurian Joseph observed: “….instead of improving the police functioning and approach, what we have seen is a journey from bad to worse in these seven years,

Instead of following SC’s ruling, the Centre called a meeting of states on April 20, and asked them to implement some of the recommendations of ARC-2.

Each MLA seeks Circle Inspector and Sub Inspectors of his choice to be posted in his constituency. The caste, allegiance, amount of bribes, attitude towards people of the MLA’s community, and ‘flexibility’ are the characters that determine posting of a policeman. At  the state level, senior Police officers are promoted to serve the ‘needs’ of the ruling party. To go ‘slow’ on certain cases, to thwart investigation, to ‘deal’ with political opponents, to ‘handle’ underworld businesses – police are needed for the politicians.

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If states go to the extent of neglecting the SC directions, it speaks volumes about ‘usefulness’ of not reforming police for the politicians.

Here is an example for non-compliance with SC order.

The Seven Directives

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120 For 100,000

The global average ratio of police-population is 270 to 100,000, where it’s 120  in India. With far less police – ill trained, ill-equipped and most of them are posted to protect the politicians, people of India are the least secure (most vulnerable) people in the world.

For more information on Police Reforms, click here.

If one tries to list the reforms needed, the list goes on. What we need to understand is the urgency of bringing such reforms.

As in the case of the Lokpal Bill, we need a leadership role of the civil society and constant coercion towards the states. But the difficulty lies in the fact that, it’s been impossible to persuade each state to enact a law in consonance with the SC directives. The only hope was SC, and it seems the states need another stern warning from the court – which they got and forgot.

  • Vinay, I still dont understand y u didnt take Pub ad as an optional! with this depth u could have easily rocked the paper 2 🙂

  • Vinay 🙂

    Thanks for the comment. I should have taken, but it’s too late to experiment 🙂

  • Fantastic post. Very revealing and educating.

    and ‘Sir, we need to bring police into the Union List’..!!!
    I liked your answer very much. But could you provide some insight into constitution-makers thinking as to why it was listed exclusively under state to start with? What was their vision then?

  • Well, I have one more question. How do you keep up managing all these links you provided to the specific subject of that day? Even the news paper one. Its very puzzling.

  • @Nikhil,

    Thanks for the appreciation. You have asked a nice question – why did constitution makers list police in the state list?

    – In the List 1 of 7th Schedule, we have ‘CBI and Investigation’ at entry 8, and CBI has police powers vested by the Parliament by an act (Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946) – but, in the entry 80 of the same Union list it is said that consent of the states is mandatory for taking police action in the states by the Union/ other state’s police forces.

    You can Imagine what would have happened to Modi, Yeddyrappa, Lalu Yadav or many ministers if CBI (Union) had the power to take action unilaterally.

    To avoid vesting the Union government with ‘exceptional’ powers – which is antithetical to the federal structure envisioned by the constituent assembly – the police was put in the state list. (this is what I think)

    Already states are at the mercy of the union government for funds, defence (paramilitary, emergency situations) – we witnessed it during Mumbai seize by terrorists – that the city had to wait for commando arrival to fight terrorists.

    Regarding second question 🙂

    I search in ‘news.google.com’ to get the content. There you can get any story – but one should know exactly what to search, because it throws up innumerable stories…

    Thank You very much for the comment and making me think. 🙂

  • Karthik Reddy

    Nice one 🙂

  • Thanks Karthink 🙂

  • Amir


    Very succinct and informative post on the subject. I came across this while researching for a presentation on the topic ” Police and Muslims in India”. In case this interests you, will be glad to know your thoughts esp. what needs to be done to build trust & synergy.

  • Sir
    I stumbled here while searching for SC directives…
    You have written that SC directives are for STATE & UT
    But UT POLICE comes under UNION itself right..ie Under Home Ministry ,Though it reports to the Administrator of UT
    So Union ca itself implement the NSC in UT…..No need for a SC directive to UT..

    And one more thing..Have you made through UPSC ???
    Great work on this Blog..

  • devendra tandale

    why police under state:
    i think, policing is state concern not union because, there may be some person or group in Union govt take control on whole nation by systematically using army and police if both are under one authority. if police is working under state no one in union govt can command on whole nation as detector which is also against the constitution. power of gun by army is prepared for war condition and power of police uses gun in daily basis in public. if both gun powers have same control. there is more probability to take over the whole nation by some one.

    About police reforms and future of nation:
    Whole India need reforms not only police. why ? lets see.
    1) what ever was system in India before British raj in Bharat, Britishers break it down by say ” call him dog and kill him”.
    2) Britishers, after 1857, established royal govt ( not company raj), which was answerable to quine(as detector). the processes and definitions was set to secure interest of Brittan and still we run it in practice. example police act 1861 and for lokpal bill there was govt and civil society though no govt person was from deference train for some task and every member was civilian.still govt and civil society so congress people manipulate definitions as govt is not civilized.
    3) we don’t know definition of constitution, law and nation. govt is not answerable to any body not even quine. no motive is given to govt, no need for oath to secure constitution.only few citizen knows constitution is no a book it is guaranty to future and comprehensive approach for human civilization given by moral and practical need for best future.
    4) one manipulation that “Britisher ruled us because of gun and train army” but Portuguese and other Europeans also had the same but still only Britisher. fact is Britishers ruled us by books and libraries. they established lakes of books libraries for few British officers. how many libraries we established after independence. British officers read books and leaded administration but Indian officers became bureaucrats and only execution / implementation authority. no local leadership so no national leadership. all leaders what we faith was developed by Britishers including congress.
    5) we, east Indians, are going rapidly in chaos in modern word. we don’t have quality education and libraries in our nation. even students don’t read books they read notes. we rapidly reducing number of intellectual people in our society. we bi forget theory / books and practical as different things. no one perusing the ultimate reason for existence of every thing around us and why we should upgrade it.
    even society of India loves money by any ways (brief or hard work) and all most society is living for money / rupee notes but no one know, “why rupee paper called note?”

    future : in modern world no nation can bear such huge population in chaos so what ever future of India will not decided by people of India or govt of India. last 65 years India is running by market force. the nations who controls market force will decide future for India and people of India. if we don’t go for revolution. personally I believe we was slaves of Britishers until 15 aug 1947 and then we became slaves of Indian bureaucracy, govt and most important “money”

    • Comments are removed. I don’t want rude comments on this blog.

      Sorry, Devendra ji. I appreciate that you have given good inputs in spite of little handicap of English language (no body is perfect). With more practice you will get good at it. Keep writing. You can install a software called ‘Grammerly’ on your system, or a simple free software is also available called ‘Ginger’ for Microsoft Word that corrects simple grammar and spelling mistakes.

      Good luck for your thesis. 🙂

      • devendra tandale

        thank you sir ji. 🙂

  • Raj

    what do you mean by Police reforms ?
    what are the internal and external impediments to Police reforms?

  • i really appreciate what you said and the way you said it. helped me pass an exam. Thanks.

  • Indeed a nice linkages between L’s TV discussion and this article….

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