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This article has been written by Adv. Vaibhav Shrivastava, pursuing LLM from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

Abstract

According to the Constitution, the police is a state-run body. As a result, each of the 28 states has its own law enforcement agency. The Centre will also keep its own police forces to help states uphold law and order. As a result, it continues to perform a variety of specialized functions in seven Central Policing and many other police organizations, including intelligence collection, investigations, research, recordkeeping, and education. Police forces play a vital role in maintaining and implementing laws, prosecuting crimes, and ensuring national safety and security. In a large and densely populated country like India, police forces must be well- trained in terms of personnel, arms, forensics, communications, and transportation support. They also need the right to act in order to fulfil their professional responsibilities, while also being kept accountable for poor outcomes or misuse of power, as well as adequate working conditions (i.e. regulating working hours and promotional opportunities).

In India, there has been ongoing debate about police and reform. Several commissions appointed by the legislature are delivering government reports and recommendations on police reform. The Supreme Court of India ordered police reform guidelines in 2006, but the central and national governments either ignore or reject the Court’s direction. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) constantly monitors the status of the Court’s guidelines’ implementation all over the country. This article will provide an overview of Police Reforms in India in brief, various judgment of Supreme Court of India with relation to Police Reforms or Judicial responses to police reforms in India, and the implementation of guidelines given by Supreme Court with due regards to Police Reforms in India.

The police are an exclusive subject under the State List. Any police law can be enacted by a state legislature. However, the police have become puppets for politicians. The police Act of 1861, enacted by the British to quell dissent, is still in force in India. Now, India has become a political and economic superpower, but the police remain paralysed. At the same time, the police face many challenges and issues, which makes necessary for changes in the police administration. For which, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has issued many guidelines for reforms of Police, but they are not implemented well.

The history of police reforms

The police are viewed as the vital arm of a state, rather than as the active arm by which the state exercises control and power. The police have been a part of society since its inception, but in British India in 1792 (lord Cornwallis) in western Bengal, which was later extended to the province of Bombay, the formal and legal police force known as Darogah evolved (1793). The Darogah system did not meet the then-expectations of government because it was unable to control village police due to a labor shortage.

Before and after independence, a number of committees and commissions were formed to address different aspects of improving the country’s police governance. It all started with the creation of the 1st Police Commission shortly after 1857 in order for the country’s police to recognize the regulatory framework. The findings of this Commission, which was established in 1860, contributed to the passage of the 1861 Police Act, which still governs the police.

The 2nd Police Commission was established in 1902 as part of an investigation into the problems caused by the implementation of the 1861 Police Act. The Commission produced a comprehensive report that covered numerous aspects of police force organization, adequacy of planning, power, and pay, adequacy of reporting procedures for crimes, investigation of offences, adequacy of police supervision by the Magistracy, superior officers’ control of crime investigations, and the links between police railways. Interestingly, even in the past, the police were far from effective, lacking in formation and organization, and were regarded as “corrupt and oppressive.”

Many years after the independence, the need to revise policing governance was felt as a result of changing economic, political, and social conditions in the country. Kerala created the first Police Reform Committee after independence in 1959. Then came a slew of police commissions appointed by various state governments in the 1960s and 1970s (“West Bengal in 1960-61, Punjab in 1961-62, Delhi in 1968, Tamil Nadu in 1971”). The Commission for Administrative Reform formed a Working Group on Police at the levels of central government in 1966.

Following this, the Gore Police Training Committee was formed in 1971, followed by the NPC, which submitted eight reports between 1977 and 1981, proposing broad improvements to the existing police structure as well as a Model Police Act. None of the National Police Commission’s key guidelines have been enforced by any government. In 1996, two former Police Directors General (DGPs) filed a “Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court”, demanding that the NPC’s guidelines to be enforced (Prakash Singh vs. Union of India). The Court established the Ribeiro committee in 1998 to review the steps taken to implement the recommendations.

As the case began in the Supreme Court in 2000, “the Minister of Home Affairs formed the Padmanabhaiah Committee to investigate the needs of the police in the new millennium.” In 2003, the Malimath Committee was formed for Criminal Justice Reforms in India.

Police reforms : after-independence scenario

Following independence, the topic of “Police” is included in Schedule seven of the State list. However, the central government may, on occasion, compel state governments to introduce the required police reforms in order to meet people’s expectations. Following independence, the country saw the formation of various committees and commissions to examine various aspects of the Police Administration and recommend corrective measures. A number of major developments in police reform have been addressed in this article.

“Gore Committee” – The Government of India created a committee in November 1971 to study existing police training programmes and make recommendations on how police officers could improve their effectiveness. Training is regarded as one of the most important factors in increasing police morale and reliability.

The committee, chaired by social scientist Prof. M. S. Gore, proposed that training is necessary for the following reasons-

  1. To bring the necessary experience and skills to the police force,
  2. Developing the most effective strategy,
  3. Potential for effective decision-making, and
  4. In order to inspire and create, creative thinking is needed.

The committee concentrated on broadening the content and scale of police training on recognizing human behavior from the narrowest to the broadest possible. The Committee

emphasized the training as a “change-agent/car of change” signaling signpost that affects not only the workers who serve but also those who are served.

“National Police Commission” – The government of the Union established the National Police Commission in 1977, under the leadership of Dharamveer. The Commission was given detailed references to emerging areas of the force, such as police-public relations and political involvement in police operations. Between 1979 and 1981, the Commission issued eight conclusions and made broad recommendations on sensitive policing issues. The committee recommends that the State Security Commission be established in all countries, as well as that the investigation process be independent of all outside influence, that the police chief be given a fixed term, and, most importantly, that the new Police Act to be framed and drafted.

“Vohra Committee” – The government of India established the Vohra Committee in 1993, chaired by Home Secretary N.N. Vohra, to examine the problems of political criminalization and the ties between crime and politics. The Committee discovered an almost identical crime network running government parallelly. According to the report, criminals have joined politics and are thus misusing state police apparatus for their own benefits.

“Ribeiro Committee” – The Ribeiro Committee was established in May 1998 by the Indian government to comply with Supreme Court orders resulting from the PIL submitted to the National Police Commission for Recommendation (1977). This committee had a longer term to investigate the measures taken “to implement the recommendations of the NPC, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Vohra Committee.” The Ribeiro committee issued two findings, proposing the creation of an advisory role and making recommendations to the Police Performance and Accountability Commission. It recommended the creation of District Police Claims and Police Establishment Boards, which would oversee additional aspects of police administration.

Judicial responses to police reforms in India and their implementation

Several attempts to implement serious police reforms have been made over the past thirty years. The National Policing Committee published eight findings between 1978 and 1981, making various recommendations but taking no steps to put them into effect. In “Vineet Narian v. Union of India, the Supreme Court acknowledged that there is serious need to implement those reforms, and the Ribeiro Committee published two reports: 1998 and 1999, 2000 and 2002 reports of the Central Government on the Padmanabhaiah Committee, and 2002 report of the Malimath Committee.

These conclusions were reached as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in “Prakash Singh Union.

  1.  The decision addresses the police organization’s autonomy, accountability, and efficiency in general. Before legislation is enacted in this regard, the Supreme Court has issued clear directives to the federal and state governments.

In the Prakash Singh case, the Supreme Court issued a landmark judgement in 2006 with seven directions or guidelines, (“six for the state and one for the union territory”), directing the establishment of a state Security Commission to lay out broad policies and give directions for preventive tasks and service, as well as forming the Soli Sorabjee Committee, which proposed a Model Police Force. The Court directed to establish three institutions –

  1. The State Security Commission”, which would formulate broad policies and provide direction for the police’s preventive and service-oriented functions.
  2. Police Establishment Board”, which is made up of the Director General of Police and four other senior officers from the Department and is in charge of deciding on transfers, postings, promotions, and other service-related matters for departmental officers and men; and
  3. Police Complaints Authority”, which investigates serious wrongdoing by police personnel at the district and state levels.

Furthermore, the Court directed that the “Director General of Police to be appointed by the state government from among the three senior-most officers of the Department” who have been nominated for promotion to that level by the UPSC, with a minimum tenure of two years.

Officers assigned to operational duties in the region, such as the IG Zone, DIG Range, SP i/c District, and SHO i/c Police Station, would be required to serve for a minimum of two years.

In addition, the court mandated that investigating officers be separated from law enforcement officers in order to ensure a faster investigation, better expertise, and stronger public relations. “The Union Government was asked to establish a National Security Commission to appoint and position heads of Central Police Organizations,” as well as to improve the efficiency of these forces and their employees’ working conditions.

Trials, in which complainants may sue particular police officers for alleged misconduct, are one method of holding the police accountable. Under criminal, public, or private torture rule, the police may be held accountable. Penal law liability can be traced back to the Criminal Code of 1973 and the Indian Penal Code of 1860, among others. The Indian Constitution and administrative law are largely accountable to public laws for policing misconduct, and private law liability for policing misconduct by torts has yet to occur in India.

Public laws accountability

The Indian Constitution and administrative law provide the foundation for public law liability in relation to police forces. The courts repeatedly held that the police were liable under public legislation and imposed monetary responsibility on the State in compensation for harm incurred in violation of “fundamental rights specified in Part III of the Constitution”, such as the rule of law, “the right to life and freedom, the protection from arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, the protection from discrimination and unequal treatment, and the protection from unequal treatment.” Beginning in the early 1980s, a series of Supreme Court decisions established basic concepts that established monetary compensation as an important remedy for holding a state accountable for police misconduct and misuse of power.

The case of “Rudul Sah vs State of Bihar(1983), in which the Supreme Court’s three- judge bench exercised writ jurisdiction and issued an order to indemnify for violations of Articles 21 and 22 of the Indian Constitution, can be considered a precedent. In this case, the petitioner had been wrongly imprisoned for 14 years following his acquittal. He sought restitution for wrongful incarceration, claiming that his arrest was completely unjustified. Although the petitioner was entitled to demand compensation in a regular civil case, the Supreme Court ruled that it would not merely do justice by issuing a warrant for release and instead had the authority to appeal compensation to the State Government.

The Supreme Court in “Sebastian Hongray vs. Union of India”, awarded justice for the torture, agony, and violence of two ladies whose husbands had gone missing when they were being carried by military officers in Manipur to an army base, and because the detaining authority had failed to produce missing persons.

Similarly, in the case of “Bhim Singh vs. the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Supreme Court awarded compensation to the claimant for his unlawfully detained by police. Bhim Singh was a member of the State Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Its aim was to prevent him from attending the Legislative Assembly session scheduled for September 11, 1985, while he was in illegal custody. The court concluded that “there was a clear violation Article 21 and 22(2) by the police officers, who were in turn executing the orders they had received from higher echelons”.

A review of the aforementioned precedents reveals the following points. To begin with, it is self-evident that a violation of fundamental rights as a result of police misconduct can result in liability under public law, in addition to criminal and tort law. Second, for such a violation of fundamental rights, monetary compensation can be awarded. Third, because the State is held liable, the compensation is the responsibility of the State, not the individual police officers found guilty of misconduct. Fourth, the Supreme Court has determined that the burden of proof is high for proving police misconduct such as brutality, torture, and custodial violence, as well as holding the State accountable. Only clear and unmistakable violations of fundamental rights are eligible for such a remedy. Fifth, sovereign immunity does not apply in cases of violations of fundamental rights and, as a result, cannot be used as a defense in public law. The Supreme Court has mostly weighed in on cases involving “extreme police misconduct, such as custodial deaths, police brutality, torture, and forced disappearances”. In cases of clear and “gross violence that shocks the conscience of the court,” courts have repeatedly ordered the State to compensate the victim and the victim’s family. There is no universally accepted method for calculating compensation amounts.

“Unlike vicarious liability in public law, police officers’ criminal liability is personal in nature.”

Liability under the Criminal Law

In terms of criminal liability, the “Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973 (CrPC)” gives government employees procedural safeguards to prevent frivolous litigation against officials performing public functions. Sections 197 and 132 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) have been preserved to offer protection to 26 police officers. The above section demands that permission be obtained from the Central or State Government before any disciplinary action is taken against a police officer accused of committing a criminal offence “whether acting or purporting to act within the discharge of his official duties.” Similarly, Section 132 forbids the government from suing police officers for any act allegedly committed under Criminal Procedure Code sections 129 to 131, “which deal with controlling an unlawful meeting that is alleged to have caused a breach of peace.” The convicted police officer is protected under Section 132 if he or she can show that he or she attempted to disperse the unlawful assembly and, when that failed, used force.

In the case of “P.P. Unnikrishnan v. Puttiyottil Alikutty,” two police officers were accused of unlawfully detaining and torturing a complainant for several days. The Supreme Court’s division bench had to deal with a “defense raised by police officers under Section 64 of the Kerala Police Act, which provides procedural safeguards against legal proceedings brought against police officers acting in good faith in the execution of any duty imposed or authority conferred by the state.” According to the Supreme Court, this clause is based on the reasoning of Section 197 of the Cr.P.C.

As a result, the Supreme Court stated in its discussion, the scope of Section 197(1) that, “There must be a reasonable connection between the act and the discharge of official duty; the act must bear such relation to the duty that the accused could lay a reasonable, but not a pretended or fanciful claim, that he did it in the course of the performance of his duty.” The Court also provides an example in which a police officer not only violates his duties, but also acts beyond the scope of his position when he confines a prisoner in lock-up for more than twenty-four hours without the permission of the court or commits assaults, and is thus not protected by the provisions of Section 197 of the Cr.P.C. In a three-day police torture case, a single bench of the Gujarat High Court applied this Section 197 interpretation.

Another case is “Uttarakhand Sangharsh Samiti v. State UP,” in which a divisional bench of the High Court of Allahabad heard a case of mass human rights abuses, including the shooting of protestors at a protest assembly, which resulted in the loss of twenty-four lives, mass murder and rape, unlawful arrests, and a high number of prisoners per person.

When the issue of a State Government’s sanction under Section 197 of the Cr.P.C. arose in this case, the division bench held that “it is not every act done by a public servant while on duty which falls within the purview of S. 197 but only those acts which have direct nexus to the discharge of official duty.” “Relying on Privy Council as well as Apex Court judgments”16, acts of arbitrary restraint and detention, the planting of weapons to show false recovery, the intentional shooting of unarmed agitators, the fabrication or framing of misleading records, the commission of rape and violence, and so on have all been said to be acts or believed to have been committed in the course of official duties.

Based on the precedents, the following conclusions can be drawn. The procedural safeguard provided by Section 197 Cr.P.C. applies only if the offender police officer may demonstrate that the alleged criminal act was committed while performing official duties. So, if the offending officer’s behaviour was in the course of his duties is an important factor in determining whether or not to charge a police officer. Second, whether or not the police activities were carried out of service is determined by whether or not they are specifically authorised to that task.

Implementation of Supreme Court directions

The Court ordered the Union and the States to comply with its orders by the end of 2006. This deadline was then extended until March 31, 2007. The Court ruled that the “directives would be in effect until the Central Government draughts a model Police Act and/or the State Government passes the necessary legislative provisions.” Initially, the Court itself monitored all Union states and territories.

However, in 2008, it established a three-member Monitoring Committee with a two-year mandate for each State to determine compliance and report on a regular basis. The Supreme Court has also appointed Justice Thomas to chair a committee that will present a report in 2010.

It was articulated “dismay over the total indifference to the issue of reforms in the functioning of Police being exhibited by the States”. In the light of rape cases in 2012, “another committee formed under Justice Verma to review amendments to criminal law deplored the lack of implementation of the Court’s seven directions not being implemented in the Prakash Singh case.”

An examination of the current situation of SC guidelines reveals a dreadful image. Seventeen states have enacted a new law legitimising the status quo in a court that is perceived to be bypassing the directions, while other states have passed only executive orders. Those states are “Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himanchal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamilnadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand”.

The Central Government should also approve the Delhi Police Bill at the time when it was presented before them. The Hon’ble Prime Minister issued a strict, sensitive, modern and mobile police vision, alert and accountable, trustworthy and accountable, technologically sound and informed, for SMART Police in November 2014.

Conclusion

In this article, we have looked at history of Police Reforms in India and its scenario after the Independence. Given today’s complex security threats, there is an urgent need for a fast- growing economy like India to have secure surroundings. Terrorism, left-wing extremism, cybercrime, and law and order issues necessitate the establishment of a large and efficient internal security police force. A review of the police governance structure, the administrative process, and the issues confronting the police force, all of which call for policing reform to be one of the country’s highest priorities. For which we have discussed the various case laws in which we got an idea that what were the responses of Judiciary to Police Reforms in India. Under judicial accountability, the victim of police misconduct has recourse under public law or criminal legislation. Compensation may be provided to victims or their family members in each of these forums.

However, the remedy of public law is the most often used. And then this article discussed about the landmark judgment for police reform that is Prakash Singh judgment in which Hon’ble Supreme Court delivered guidelines for police reforms.

However, since only a few states have implemented these recommendations, and the process has yet to take off. Although it provides the “institutional design required to become a potentially effective mechanism of police accountability, there is little evidence of political will to do so on the ground.”

References

  1. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. (2010). Seven Steps to Police Reform. CHRI. PP 5-12. Retrieved on April 04, 2021 at 05:29 PM from http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org/
  2. Commonwealth Human Right Initiative. (2011). Police Reforms Debates in India. Commonwealth Human Right Initiative, Better Policing Series in India. Retrieved April 05, 2021 at 10:09 AM from http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org
  3. Daruwala, M. & Joshi, GP & Tiwana, M. (2005). Police Act, 1861: Why we need to replace it? Police Reforms too Important to Neglect too Urgent to Delay. Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative. PP 1-15. Retrieved on April 04, 2021 at 02:00 PM
  4. H.H.B Gill v. The King AIR 1948 PC 128; Amrik Singh v. State of PEPSU AIR 1955 SC 309; Matajog Dubey v. H.C Bhari AIR 1956 SC 44; Balbir Singh v. D.N. Kadian AIR 1986 SC 345
  5. Jain Suparna and Gupta Aparajita, Article “Building Smart Police in India: Background into the needed Police Force Reforms”
  6. “Legal Accountability of the Police in India” (This article is an edited version of a Memorandum that CLPR prepared for Centre for Human Rights, American Bar Association in 2013-14)
  7. Martensson, E. (2006). The Indian Police System a reform proposal. Loksatta Foundation of Democratic Reform, Hyderabad. Retrieved on April 04, 2021 at 11:27

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