This article is written by Himanshu Mahamuni, a student of Government Law College, Mumbai. This article studies the conditions of police stations, its impact on police and law and order and the required reforms in the sector.
Police are the backbone of the society for maintaining peace and solving the problems of people at ground level. Duties of police consist of prevention of crime, and investigation of the crime if it has already taken place. They are also responsible for riot control, public security and other public services relating to security and investigation. Even though they have a huge responsibility on their shoulders, their workplace, that is the police station, is not in good working conditions compared to the load they are given. The miserable condition consists of lack of proper furniture such as tables, chairs etc, poor infrastructure which includes the absence of lock-up facility, no proper living conditions in the quarters provided if any, etc. Considering the crimes which are emerging today, such as cybercrime, which are hard to investigate by police because of technological backwardness and no proper training. Above all, some are not even paid according to the work they do.
These conditions are one of the reasons for corruption, communal violence and lack of execution. Such conditions also widely contribute to the morale of the police and their dedication to work as public servants. There are various necessary reforms which are the need of the hour for better administration and encouragement to do their job. In this article, we will discuss the current system of police, its consequences on the people and on police themselves, and the necessary reforms which are needed.
Present police system in India
The Constitution of India distributes the legislative power in three heads viz. Union list, State list and concurrent list under Article 246 as given under Seventh Schedule. Police are under the State list among these, which means that they can be governed by orders directed by the respective states. The superintendence over the police in a state is governed by the state. The hierarchy of police administration runs as follows:
- An officer known as the Director General of Police (DGP) is appointed by the state to administer the state police force.
- The police force in a zone, which is a group of the range that comprises a group of districts, is administered by an officer of the rank of Inspector General of Police.
- The police force of a range which is a group of districts is administered by an officer of the rank of Deputy Inspector General of Police.
- The district police force is administered by an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP).
- The police force in the sub-division which is a further division of districts is administered by an officer of the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police or Deputy Superintendent of Police (ASP/Dy.S.P).
- The police force in each circle which is between the police station and sub-division administered by an officer of the rank of Inspector of Police.
The duties were first laid down in detail in the Police Act of 1861 for the police officers. These duties were further extended extensively by the Police Bill introduced in the National Police Commission’s Eighth Report. The United Nations (UN) has also released the Code of Conduct applicable to law enforcement officials which suggests the methods in which police shall conduct.
Weak infrastructure and its effect on police working
Any person requires a conducive environment to work effectively at his full potential. These can be termed as basic requirements for a healthy working space. The police stations lack these basic requirements in different states of India. These requirements consist of access to clean drinking water, basic infrastructure and other things. This time demands modernisation and digitalisation of working space for productive working. Where police stations lack basic requirements, digitalisation is far from reality. The Centre for the Study Developing Societies (CSDS) in its report on ‘Status of Policing in India’ have ascertained the following findings with regards to working conditions of police:
- 12% of personnel reported that there is no provision for drinking water and 14% that there is no provision for the seating area.
- In 46% of the time, there was no government vehicle for transport and in 41% they didn’t reach on time due to lack of staff.
- 8% of personnel reported that there were never functional computers available, 17% complained about the absence of a CCTNS facility and there was no forensic technology in 42% of the stations.
- Out of every 3 civil police personnel, one police officer never received any training on forensic research.
Police are overburdened with the duty because of a lesser police force than the required number. The actual strength of police as of 2016 was 137 personnel per lakh persons which was sanctioned to be at least 181 personnel. The United Nations has recommended that there must be 222 police personnel per lakh persons, which is far more than actual figures. There was reportedly a 75% shortage of availability of weapons in an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of the Rajasthan police force where a large proportion of 59% was out of use because they were not distributed. Similar trends were seen in the police forces of West Bengal and Gujrat. It was also found in the audit that there were vacancies for the job of operating equipment by trained personnel, such as radio operators and technicians.
The police station lacks basic facilities such as clean drinking water and the availability of toilets. The police are not equipped with adequate staff which results in stunted performance where the police failed to reach the crime scene on time and were unable to escort the accused to court on time due to such lack of resources.
These shocking findings are one of the major reasons for the poor performance and lack of efficiency among police. These reports suggest that police lack basic infrastructure to function which adversely affects the working of the police.
Woman constables’ conditions
Women are an important element to be compulsorily present in any police station. The presence of women police reduces the use of excessive force against the accused because compared to males, they are considered less violent which will result in lesser use of force from other officers. These findings were reported in the Women & Criminal Justice Journal, which further found that this will impact positively and improve the overall police-community relationship and improve the performance of the police station.
But the representation of women is as low as 7.28% in 2016. This has led to an increase in gender stereotypes and biases of women in the police station as well as outside police stations who hesitate to register a complaint. In the survey carried out by CSDS, as discussed above, it was revealed that the task carried out by a woman was different from that of a man in a police station. Where a male constable carried out duties like patrolling, investigating, providing security, maintaining law and order, etc, on the other hand, a female constable is usually handed in house tasks such as maintaining the register, dealing with the public and filing FIRs.
Women employed in a police station are to carry double the burden of the police station and household work both for comparatively lesser pay. While the woman constable is deprived of the week off, they are called for staying back of post duty hours for more work. When the basic facilities such as toilets are already missing, a separate toilet for women is fetched. The rigid gender role in police stations continues to be an obstacle with increased gender parity.
The woman constable does not form a part of society due to off-screen workload and people do not look at women as a reliable option. This parity has created a lot of obstacles for public perception to look at police as gender-neutral and created a bias of women constables as inferior officers.
Effect on law and order of the state
The law and order of the state can be maintained only if people have trust and confidence in the police and see them as a community that can solve their problems. However, people look at the police as corrupt, inefficient, politically partisan and unresponsive. Status of Policing in India Report (SPIR) 2018 report found that people were reluctant to file an FIR and the reason for underreporting of crimes by women was recorded as social stigma, harassment and use of abusive language by police. It has been observed that police refuse to file an FIR because lodging FIRs would show higher crime rates which will indicate the poor performance of the authorities. It was further found in the report that about 14% of the citizens are highly fearful of the police officials and about 30% of people were found to be somewhat fearful of the police. These people who are fearful of the police are found to be unwilling to visit the police station to file a report even if there was a need for them to do so which results in high under-reporting of the cases happening.
Police are seen as a tool for quick justice by people for the punishments of the criminals which is not viewed as possible by the judiciary. This boasting and misuse of power lead to suppressing freedom of speech and expression of the common people. Police are seen using excessive force than required while controlling an angry mob or protestors. The disruption of fundamental rights of people affects in turn lowering their trust in the police. Usually, police even lack basic tools required such as protective jackets in such situations and attack the mob to keep themselves safe.
What reforms are needed by the Indian police
Model Police Act, 2006 which is the successor to the Act of 1861 framed by the British, lays down certain reforms to have functional autonomy and accountability for the conduct of the police. These reforms were introduced by the direction of the Supreme Court to constitute a committee to set up a State Security Commission in the landmark judgement of Prakash Singh vs Union of India (2006). Some of the key reforms introduced hereunder are.:
- Improving organisation and recruitment which is to be headed by the DGP.
- Responsibilities such as enforcing the law, preventing and protecting public order, collecting intelligence, etc.
- Accountability by framing guidelines to ensure quality policing in a more professional manner.
- Restricting time of work to 8 hours and setting up a Police Welfare Board for framing welfare measures and necessary assistance for police.
The past attempts to reform the police situation in India does not address the need for reform in the working conditions such as infrastructure and training of the police. A report released by NITI Aayog, ‘Strengthening Police Force’ instructs the three necessary reforms which are essential for better and effective functioning of the police. These suggestions are-
The quality of life of the police needs to be updated as police are ‘always on duty’ and they should be provided with humane living conditions. A forensic laboratory must be set up in each district or range levels.
The growing threat to internal security is to be dealt with by the police. They are to be given support by the military and paramilitary forces depending on the amount of threat they are facing. There is a need for an amendment in the concurrent list to bring certain crimes and threats under public order. A framework is needed to be set up for the organised crime act and declaration of federal crimes which can be done by moving police to a concurrent list.
The investigation of crime must be separated from law and order. As per the demand of the time, a specialized cell of social and cybercrimes must be set up for faster and effective redressal. Functions of police are to be limited exclusively to its core function and not allow any other work. The state mechanism shall be strengthened and police must be kept accountable for the prosecution done by them.
The need for modernisation and digitalisation of police was addressed by the formation of Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS), 2009. This will connect the police station and officers for better coordination. A proposal of NATGRID or National Intelligence Grid is also put forward to access data from central offices like IB, RAW, CBI, etc.
The conditions of police are clearly visible to be in miserable condition and there is a huge uproar for reform in this sector. Such conditions are the eventual reasons for various violations of human rights and distrust of people. Poor working conditions lead to the threat of violation of fundamental and basic human rights. Some of the reforms suggested above are not only to be drawn on paper but should also be implemented and observed by the public. The Model Police Bill, 2015 can be a reform that is long demanded and brings essential changes in the current situations. The Model Police Bill, 2015 shall incorporate provisions discussed above and adapt to the demands of people in every state police to ensure proper law and order.
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