Over seven out of ten murderers, rapists and robbers in India go scot-free. But when the country’s top police officers gather in Delhi this week, this will be one problem left totally untouched.
Instead, the discussions at the three-day conference of police chiefs beginning Thursday, will focus exclusively on high-profile security issues — from policing cyberspace to tracking terrorists and guarding VIPs.
But what about catching criminals and bringing them to justice?
That, said Ajai Sahni at the Delhi-headquartered think-tank Institute for Conflict Management, is the key problem area.
“Our basic policing capabilities remain at the same level and everyone is looking for something flashy to talk about,” he said. “If the police are not efficient enough to catch a thief, they can’t be expected to be any more efficient at bringing a terrorist to justice”.
Former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra is worried about the basic problems of policing not receiving enough attention.
“Everyone focuses at the higher level... but the basic capacity of the criminal justice system hasn’t been improved,” he said.
There should be separate sessions to focus extensively on basic problems, he said. But he also wondered if the decisions of police chiefs were taken seriously, in view of how their suggestion on reducing the cut-off age of juveniles accused of serious crimes was relegated to the dustbin.
Former Uttar Pradesh police chief Prakash Singh — who is leading a legal battle to force states to fix the basic problems of policing — agreed, saying the conference was being treated as a ritual, an “annual jamboree”.
There are half-a-million police posts lying vacant in the country and no one appears concerned, he said.
And this is the situation a decade after a panel headed by a retired high court judge warned that the criminal justice system was on the verge of a collapse, Singh added.
Neither the political leadership nor the administrative machinery have lifted a finger to make a difference.