The Big Picture- PM puts the onus of law and order on states: is it enough?
Just before the beginning of monsoon session in the Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the issue of violence in the name of protecting cows. In an all-party meet recently, the Prime Minister said that the state governments should take the strongest action against the anti-social elements because law and order is the prime responsibility of state governments. However, the opposition is preparing to take on the government in Parliament over this issue.
This is not the first time that the Prime Minister has made a remark on those posing as vigilantes trying to protect cows and killing human beings. Prime Minister is right as far as the statute book is concerned i.e. Constitution of India. Law and order is a state subject therefore, it is the primary responsibility of the state governments to check such incidents. The Centre at best can issue an advisory to the state governments to be more vigilant and nab these people. Being a powerful Prime Minister, he can take strict action against these types of crimes because in the international media, it is the Prime Minister’s intention which is being questioned.
The Prime Minister can convene a meeting of the National Integration Council or a Chief Minister’s Conference can also be convened considering the seriousness of the situation. There is freedom of speech and expression under Fundamental Rights but there are certain restrictions which are imposed on the people. This covers the public order and incitement of violence. There are laws which check these two things but the enforcement of laws or rules which check the above-mentioned issues rest with the state governments.
The Prime Minister did strictly come out himself on certain occasions but the state or concerned authorities do not need to wait for a signal or statement from the Prime Minister to act. Immediate action is lacking.
The criminal justice system rests upon law enforcement agencies to maintain public peace and order. Police can take action themselves on these issues of law and order but the problem is police is also under the political bosses. For example- An SSP has to seek order from DGP and the DGP has to seek order from the Chief Minister. Sometimes, there is no clarity in orders due to safeguarding of vote banks.
Today, due to federal character, State Governments do not want interference from the Centre in the internal affair of the state such as in West Bengal. Giving a free hand to police in these situations might also lead to misuse of power. There has been a number of examples of fake encounters. Also, many a times, police personnel do not take action because of fear of transfer.
What is happening is a crime under CRPC as these actions cause disaffection among communities. If these are not addressed in an impartial way, there will be a lot of trouble in future. Problem lies in implementation of the laws. Adequate reforms in police structure, political will to deal with these issues with a heavy hand and a better coordination between centre and states is the prerequisite in the present scenario.