An Inept Police Force Suits the Establishment – Thus, No Reforms

The Herculean efforts made by the nation to enforce police reforms, is a history of over two decades in the recent past. The year 2006 was one of optimism, when the Supreme Court, in its landmark judgment, gave a seven-point directive to implement police reforms.

Little did we realize, that this well-meaning judgment, will be subjected to slow poisoning, and will be challenged by extreme obstinacy from the bureaucracy and the politicians.

The vested interests in the power corridors could simply not get over the idea that an inefficient, corrupt, and consequently, an obsequious police force – which is so dispensable – could be done away with. Any police reforms, therefore, would adversely impact their administrative and political ambitions.

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A Long Road to Justice

In March 2017, none other than the then Chief Justice of India, Jagdish Singh Khehar, reacted and said, “Police reforms are going on and on. Nobody listens to our orders.” If this be the state of helplessness of a serving Chief Justice of India, what can lesser mortals – the common citizens of India – contribute?

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an NGO, has gone to the extent of reporting that, “While 18 states have formulated their own new police sets, 11 have just issued executive orders, perhaps to comply with the Supreme Court directive. Not a single state has conformed to the directives in letter and spirit. Many states have advanced ingenious ways and have used this, to ensure that the police force remains under the control of the state governments, and is less accountable.”

The Supreme Court on 3 July, passed a series of elaborate orders on police reforms. The honourable court restrained the states and union territories from appointing any police officer as acting directors general of police, to prevent favouritism and nepotism. These directives came on an application filed by the MHA, in which it was stated that some states have been appointing acting directors general of police and making them permanent – just before the date of their retirement – so as to give them the advantage of an additional two years of tenure, till they attain the age of 62.

A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, and Justices D Y Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar passed these elaborate directions, for the appointment of state police chiefs.

The judgment went on to say “None of the states shall ever conceive of the idea of appointing any person for the post of director general of police on acting basis, for there is no concept of acting director general of police.”

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Reforms Are a Must

Elaborating further, the Supreme Court said, “All the states shall send their proposals in anticipation of the vacancies to the Union Public Service Commission well in time, at least 3 months prior to the date of retirement of the incumbent in the post of director general of police.”

“The UPSC will then study and finalise a panel as per the earlier directions of the honourable court, and then furnish it to the states, which shall immediately appoint one of the persons from the list. An endeavour has to be made by all concerned to see that the person who was selected and appointed as the DGP continues despite his date of superannuation.”

“As a consequence, the person continues for two years after his date of superannuation. Such a practise will not be in conformity with the spirit of the direction.”

The Supreme Court ordered further that the UPSC, while evaluating the names proposed by the states, shall look for those people as far as possible, who have two years of service left before retirement. It also mandated that the UPSC would give due consideration to merit and seniority while finalising the names for empanelment, and we could devise an acronym RAAM (Reforms Are a Must). Not to do so would be a disservice to the nation.

Need to Implement Measures in Letter & Spirit

In the backdrop of these developments, the latest Supreme Court judgment has the potential of breaking the jinx, that make police reforms a myth. More importantly, the Supreme Court order kept in abeyance any legislation or rule, framed by any of the states or the Centre, running counter to the earlier direction of the court. Through this, the Supreme Court tried to insulate the process and the procedures of the appointment of the director general of police – both at the Centre, and in the states. This significant judgment has come after a very long wait.

Since 2006, the nation has seen the problems of the Indian Mujahideen grow, and the disconcerting activities of the ISIS – not to mention, the colossal financial frauds committed by the likes of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, etc.

Damaging as it is to the prestige and credibility of India in the international world, its material consequences in terms of loss to the GDP are worse still.

It was in 2014 that Prime Minister Modi announced an impressive road map for police functioning, that is SMART – S for Strict and Sensitive, M for Modern and Mobile, A for Alert and Accountable, R for Reliable and Responsive, T for Tech-Savvy and Trained.  But since 2014, there have been consecutive changes and half-hearted measures to implement police reforms. The time has come therefore, to implement the measures in letter and spirit.

(Dr Vikram Singh is an Indian educationist and retired Indian Police Service officer. He joined the IPS in 1974, and held the post of Director General of Police in the state of Uttar Pradesh during the period June 2007 – September 2009. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)

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