The article is written by Vishruti Chauhan pursuing BA LLB from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad. The present article focuses on the analysis of the Model Police Act, its impact on criminal investigations, limitations and critically analysing the implications of the same.
The Police Force constitutes a major part of the administration in the country. It is the police force which is given the responsibility to enforce laws and maintain public order. In the present situation of the pandemic, the police force has played a major role in establishing strict lockdown all over the country and has been able to keep the public in order by not creating a situation of chaos. For carrying out such responsibilities, they are equipped with weapons and transport as well as forensic facilities. The police work under the Centre or the State Government as they may be deployed.
The police force is also given various powers under the Acts to deal with crimes and investigation in the cases. Along with the applaudable work that these police forces do, there have been many cases in the past concerning misuse of power by these police forces. The Police Act of 1861 was being followed in India for the structural functioning of the police. However, in 2005, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission was formed which pointed out various loopholes in the said Act and opined that there was a need for reform in the Act as the government was misusing its power.
Previously, in the year 1996, a case (Prakash Singh & Ors. v. Union of India) was filed before the Supreme Court pertaining to misuse of the power of the police while aligning to the political persons. The Supreme Court gave its judgment in 2006 and held that the Centre and the States should make guidelines pertaining to evaluating the performances of the police as well as complaints against the police officers. Thus, under Entry 1 & 2 of the List II of the VII Schedule of the Indian Constitution, the Model Police Act, 2006 was circulated in all the states.
Objective and scope of the Act
The main objective behind the Model police Act, 2006 was to establish an independent body to regulate and check on performances of the police officers. It was established to encourage independence among the officers from the political bias and create a system where complaints can be registered for a police officer not complying with his duty.
The Act states about various posts and duties that have to be followed on every level, village metropolitan and even Army personnel. The Act also states the training, research and development of these police officers, regulation and welfare mechanism for police personnel. A section of the Act also deals with the offences and punishments that govern these police personnel. The Act is sufficient in itself and does not depend upon any other criminal law or administrative law. Furthermore, the preamble of the Act describes a wide field of responsibilities of police personnel like protecting human, civil, political, cultural, social, political rights and also safeguarding vulnerable sections of society. The Act manages to redefine the responsibilities of police in a wider manner.
- Section 3– the section states there has to be a separate police service for every state.
- Section 27– the section defines the various duties to be undertaken by the Civil Police Officers such as patrolling, investigation of crime, trafficking.
- Section 28 & 29– it defines the role of Armed Police Units as a state-level battalion to assist the civil police in case of violent disturbances or disaster relief operations.
- Section 43– it defines the composition of a panel for selection of independent members of the State Police Board. The panel consists of a retired Chief justice of a High Court, the Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission and the Chairperson of the State Public Service Commission.
- Section 48– This section defines the functions of the State Police Board as framing policy guidelines for police accountability, identity performance, utilisation of resources.
- Section 57– it describes laying down the role, functions and duties of the police.
- Section 85 & 86– the section deals with the Community Liaison Group which is to be constituted in every Police Station comprising respectable local residents of the area who represents the community and advises the police in emerging needs of policing areas.
- Section 93– for any public procession, whether religious, political or social, in a public place, an intimation has to be given to the officer in charge of the concerned police station.
- Section 98– the section provides for the establishment of Special Armed Police Units or even special riot control squads in case of riots or mob control or VIP security or disaster management.
- Section 112– It states that Special Security Zones can be created in case the State is threatened by insurgency or any other terror or military activity. It will be the responsibility of the State Government to coordinate the functioning of different wings of the administration.
- Section 138– the section states that a training education policy will be established by the State Government to develop professional skills, knowledge of police subjects, right attitudes and ethical and moral policing.
- Section 148– the Section very precisely points out the various rules for the administration of police like prevention of crime, maintenance of law and order, regulation and deployment of location and many other rules as prescribed.
- Section 149– the section provides for disciplinary penalties which can be imposed on an officer by an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police.
- Section 159 & 160– the section provides for the establishment of a police accountability Commission on the State level to inquire into public complaints pertaining to serious misconduct by the police. The Commission has five members, a retired High Court Judge, a retired police officer from another State cadre, a person of experience in public or judicial office, a person of repute and a retired officer with experience in public administration.
- Section 167– it describes the functions of the commission and states that an inquiry can be set up for any police officer either ‘suo moto’ or complaint received from victim or police or another source. Serious misconduct has been explained in this provision as in police custody, grievous hurt, rape or detention without due process of law.
- Section 173– states the establishment of the District Accountability Authority to monitor such departmental inquiries or complaints of misconduct of police personnel.
- Section 177– describes the Rights of the Complainant. For example, the right to lodge a complaint in case of misconduct, the right to know about the process of the case and the right to attend the inquiry hearings.
- Section 185– describes the administration and monitoring of welfare of the police personnel such as financial funds, health, education, insurance, etc.
- Section 188– It states that the average hours of duty of a police officer does not exceed eight hours a day as provided under the section except in exceptional cases where it may extend to twelve hours or beyond.
- Section 195- 198– describes the offences against police such as an obstruction in police work, unauthorised use of police uniform or making a false or misleading statement to the police.
- Section 199 & 200– it states the offences done by the police such as dereliction of duty by the police officer which is punishable by imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or fine or both, arrest, search or seizure by violence or unlawful means etc.
Police organizations and functions
The Act has provided for various police departments and structured it in a manner that will cover every aspect of policing in the State. The post of the Director-General of Police is the senior-most position in the Police Service of the State. Along with it, there are other positions as well such as Additional Director General, Inspector General, Deputy and Assistant Inspectors General to assist in the performance or discharge of functions, duties and responsibilities. Financial Advisors and legal Advisors are also appointed to assist in legal or financial matters. District police setups, district-level special cells, sub-divisions, Police Station, Railway Police, State Intelligence, Criminal Investigation Department, Special Armed Police Units, technical support services, Armed Police Units, State Police Board, Police Units at the metropolitan and rural level are many organisations which are highlighted in the Act for the proper functioning of the police units.
The structure has been drawn in such a way that there is a proper mechanism to maintain law and order in the State. From village to city level and from small offences to acts of terror, there are police personnel preventing such offences to take place. The Model Act has laid down every brick of department in a manner that it builds into a strong wall protecting the State at every level.
There are various functions of these departments and every department is allotted with a set of functions of its own. However, there are basic functions and duties of the police which are stated in the Act-
- to investigate criminal activities
- to protect internal security
- to maintain law and order
- to protect the interests of the vulnerable group of society
- to enforce the law impartially
- to protect public properties during vital establishments
- to register all the complainant being brought and take action on the same
- to provide help to people in the situation of natural disaster
- to control traffic on roads and railways
- to collect intelligence in matters of peace and order in the state
- social responsibility of assisting and behaving respectfully while questioning
- duty to adhere to the orders given by the superiors
Impact on criminal investigation
The Model Police Act was established with a view to curb the ambiguities in the previous Act and one of them being the lacking knowledge of police officers in various criminal investigations. There are some criminal investigations which require precise knowledge of scientific, economic and forensic techniques or even basic knowledge to investigate. The Model Act created a separate model to establish crime investigation units in every state and even on district levels to combat serious offences. These units are made to be equipped with facilities for both scientific and qualified and trained human resources. These units are to combat with serious offences like money laundering, cybercrimes, homicide, murder, kidnapping, rape or organised crimes or any other serious offence. These units thus require special skills and knowledge to solve such crime and therefore, for such units the officers appointed are those who major in such skills or who have been experienced in such conditions.
Even for Rural areas, the Special Crime Investigation unit has to be set up and a Sub-Inspector heads such unit. Such officers in these branches have a tenure of five years maximum. The said Act of 2006 provided very concise and precise methods of keeping a check on the ability of the police officers so that there is no compromise with the criminal investigations.
How does it affect police-public relations
The public-police relation needs to be very trustworthy in the aspect of maintaining law and order in society. It is very crucial that the public has a sense of security with police around. It was with this intention that a provision of ‘Community Liaison Group’ was included in the Act. This provision provides that the District Superintendent of Police will constitute such a community which will include representative locals of that area who are reputed and of unimpeachable character. This community will have two representatives from the Panchayat Samiti as well. The function of such a community is to identify the places and loopholes where policing is needed and the Station House Officer has to consider such a suggestion while preparing an annual policing strategy. It confers as an important part in many areas and many States have included this in their State Police Models.
The best example is the ‘Janamaithri Suraksha’ which is constituted in Kerala where the beat constables are supposed to know every family or even a member of every family living in his jurisdiction. This Committee constitutes retired officers, municipal councillors and resident’s association to facilitate the process. Through these committees, local people are always in the loop of administration and thus there is a fiduciary relationship that gets established between the police officials and the locals which help in creating a better understanding between the two.
The Act as a roadmap for the future
Contrary to the previous Act of 1861, the Police Model Act of 2006 paved a way for the wider and accountable mode of police forces. The Act established some new concepts and tried to engage the model of police forces closer to the public. The Act demonstrates the new mechanisms of welfare, accountability and professionalism in the field. With the strict regulations and various branches of units set up, it will be more efficient to administer on a local basis. The power to evaluate and take complaints of a police officer who misuse their power came as a positive note and it has created a hope in the future that through the regulation of the acts of policemen there will be fewer cases pertaining to police brutality.
Although the Act is filled with various new changes and new initiatives there are certain points which still need to be addressed.
There is a wide connotation and excessive liberation of subjects in certain areas. For example, implementing the Community liaison Group is a very forward and positive act but in practicality, the idea can be very different. There can be instances where people try to hide the truth and derail the police. There can be situations where the police harass more people after engaging with them on a daily basis. This provision may look very positive on paper but is very difficult to implement. Similarly, it has been provided that the Superintendent of Police can appoint a willing person to be a Special Police Officer to serve the Police service having privileges and immunities same as that of an ordinary police officer. It is very difficult to maintain the credibility of the police officer if such a provision allows anyone to become a police officer without proper merit.
Furthermore, there are many words used which are not defined under the Act such as terrorism, communalism, insurgency, militant activity, which are used widely throughout the Act. It is important to discuss these and state the definitions of the same so that there is no wide interpretation and there is distinctiveness in relation to the power used by the police. Otherwise, such context if not explained properly can result in hammering the fundamental rights of the people.
- The Act can include definitions for various words being used such as terrorism, insurgency etc.
- There is a need for a strict regime under Section 22 giving a person power as an ordinary police officer.
- There is wider annotation in relation to the village guards that may create problems in practical aspects.
- The training and education facilities should be more focussed upon.
- A concrete structure should be there to maintain the jurisdictional issues between the units.
After the Police Act of 1861, the 2006 Act came as a new initiative to acknowledge the various issues relating to policing and to curb any inefficient provision which might make the police force to be in a power where they might misuse it. It is the basic rule of Constitutional law- check & balances. The three pillars of democracy- legislative, judiciary and the executive are in independent form but always keep checks and balances on each other. It is a very important source in administration and thus even the accountability of the acts of the police officers needs to be checked and balanced. The Model Act sure needs some more amendments and clarification for the strong structure of police units in future. Moreover, even with the guidelines given by the Court, it can be seen that there is no proper implementation of the same.
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