By: Priyanka Saurabh
The primary role of the police forces is to maintain and enforce laws, investigate crimes and ensure the safety of the people in the country. Under the Constitution, the police is a subject governed by the states. The debate on policing and reforms in India has been going on for almost 30 years. The present Indian police system is largely based on the Police Act of 1861. Police reform has been on the government’s agenda almost since independence, but even after more than 70 years, the police are seen as selectively skilled, and sympathetic to the underprivileged.
Police service is of great importance in our country. In the last 75 years, it has been an effort to improve the police service in the country. Improvements have also been made in the infrastructure related to this training in the last few years. Today, the kind of internal and external challenges in the country, the importance of the responsibility of the police, their role, and their work increase even more. According to the constitution, the police is a state subject, so each state of India has its police force. To help the states, the center has also been allowed to maintain police forces so that law and order situations can be ensured.
In any democratic country, the basis of the power of the police force is the trust of the people in it and if it is not there then it is fatal for the society. Institutional reforms in police are the key by which law and order can be brought back on track, today the country needs to change the police system, reforms, recommendations of various commissions and committees, the role of courts in police reforms, and rights are given to citizens. But there is a need for open discussion.
A recent report from the Bureau of Police Research and Development of the Ministry of Home Affairs has come out. In this report, many shocking aspects have come to the fore regarding the policing system of the country. For example, the per capita expenditure on policing in the country has doubled in the last ten years, but more than five lakh posts are lying vacant in the police force. According to this report, every third police station in the country does not have any CCTV cameras. There is only one policeman for 841 people in the country. Half of the country’s population are women, but their participation in the police is only ten and a half percent. 41 percent of the police stations in the country are such, where not a single woman policeman is posted. This picture is of the police force of the country. This is the situation when there are many challenges at the internal level in the country. Law and order is the issue of the states but the question of security of the people is, therefore, the responsibility of all the governments to reform the police service.
Crime per lakh population has increased by 28% over the last decade. However, the punishment has been short. So it shows the poor quality of investigation. The Law Commission and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that state police officers often neglect investigations as they lack a variety of functions and are overburdened. In addition, they lack the necessary training and expertise to conduct professional investigations. They also have the insufficient legal knowledge and the forensic and cyber infrastructure available to them is both inadequate and outdated. Forced, police forces may use force and torture to obtain evidence.
Crime investigation may be influenced by political or other outside considerations; as for the problem of forensic labs, expert bodies have said that there is a shortage of funds and qualified staff in these labs. Moreover, cases are referred to indiscriminately in these laboratories resulting in high pendency. The lack of coordination between the Center and the states is a matter relating to the maintenance of law and order, resulting in the ineffective functioning of the police force. The police force is not in a position to deal with the current problems of cybercrime, global terrorism, and Naxalism due to structural weaknesses.
The police force is especially overburdened at the lower levels, where constables are forced to work continuously for 14-16 hours and 7 days a week. This adversely affects their performance. While the sanctioned police strength in 2016 was 181 police per lakh person when the United Nations recommended that the standard is 222 police per lakh person. Soldiers constitute 86 percent of the state’s police. Constables are usually promoted once during their service. This can undermine their incentive to perform well.
One of the most important points to be included in police reforms is that the police have to be free from political pressure at the local level. Because at the local level many cases are in public life and the victims do not get their legal justice. We need to bring the police into the Joint List of the Constitution of India. India’s internal security is a matter of deep concern. With amendments to CrPC, IPC, and the Indian Evidence Act, police reforms should not take much time. There should also be talk of changing the Police Regulation-1861 because this law was made for the exploitation of Indians, the British had made it according to their need, and this law has become 161 years old.
While reforms in pay scales and promotions are essential aspects of police reform, little has been talked about the reforms needed at the psychological level. In the Indian Police Force, lower rank police personnel are often verbally abused by their superiors or they work in humane conditions. This non-harmonious work environment ultimately affects their relationship with the public. Police-public relations are in an unsatisfactory state as people view the police as corrupt, incompetent, politically partisan, and unresponsive. In addition, citizens generally fear going to the police station or dealing with the lower ranks of the police force.
In addition, a high percentage of vacancies within police forces exacerbate the existing problem of overloaded police personnel. The police force needs to be freed from the shackles of the executive and given functional autonomy to enforce the rule of law. The police should be tough and sensitive, modern and mobile, alert and accountable, reliable and responsible, tech-savvy and trained. (The author is a research scholar in political science, poet, freelance journalist, and columnist)