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Police barriers

It wouldn't be an understatement to say that police have lost the trust of the people. Public safety is, to put it mildly, unsatisfactory.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 00:28 IST

It is no surprise that police reforms have reached a stumbling block, created in the main by the political executive. In a meeting of chief secretaries and DGPs of states and Union Territories on Tuesday, several states have practically refused to implement the Supreme Court’s seven-point directive to make the police more effective and accountable. Others, notably crime-infested states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and even Delhi, have till now chosen to ignore the directive. Among the main reasons cited for rejecting the directive were the federal structure of governance — in which policing is a matter of the state alone and as such the SC’s order is not binding upon them — and the lack of adequate infrastructure. This deliberate delay in correcting the working of an institution of such import to civil society is disturbing.

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that the police have lost the trust of the people. Public safety — that most basic responsibility of the police — is, to put it mildly, unsatisfactory. In practically all the states, the police themselves are often involved in the most  blatant violations of law. Besides, tardy investigation of crimes, made worse by the lack of knowledge of modern forensic science, mean that the chances of criminals facing judgment are few. The SC’s directives — which include separating the law and order and investigative wings, fixed tenures for senior officers, putting transfers, postings and promotions primarily under police control and setting up a body to look into complaints against police officers — thus go right into the heart of the darkness within the police establishment. It shields the police from political interference, allows for more professionalism, while also making the police accountable for their actions.

Yet, the problem lies in the fact that even as the executive has found it profitable to keep the police under its control, the latter have also conveniently used political interference as a ready defence against any criticism. Both are obviously happy with the status quo, but that is no reason for the reforms, already long overdue, to be postponed indefinitely. The police must be made to work for the people, rather than for their political masters.