The government has unveiled an ambitious agenda of reforms in the Presidential address. Internal security has been given high priority and the government has committed itself to a policy of "zero tolerance" towards terrorism and actively pursuing police reforms. The priorities are well placed. Economic development can take place only in a secure environment.
There has been fierce resistance to police reforms from the political class and the bureaucracy so far. As a result, the reforms directed by the Supreme Court have made tardy progress. Most of the bigger states are either dragging their feet or they have cleverly passed laws to circumvent the implementation of Supreme Court's directions.
It may be recalled that the Apex Court, in a landmark judgment on September 22, 2006, ordered the setting up of three institutions at the State level: State Security Commission which would lay down the broad policies and insulate the police from extraneous influences; Police Establishment board which shall decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and thereby give the department autonomy in personnel matters; and Police Complaints Authority to inquire into allegations of misconduct by the police personnel to ensure their accountability. Besides, the Court ordered that the Director General of Police shall be selected by the state government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the department who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the UPSC, and that he shall have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years. Police officers on operational duties in the field would also have a tenure of two years. The Court also ordered the separation of investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
The Union Government was asked to set up a National Security Commission for the selection and placement of heads of Central Police Organizations, upgrading the effectiveness of these forces and improving the service conditions of its personnel. The Soli Sorabjee Committee also drafted a Model Police Act and submitted the same to the Government of India on October 30, 2006.
These reforms, it needs to be emphasized, are not for the glory of the police - they are essentially to give better security and protection to the people of the country, uphold their human rights and improve governance. The government should ensure that the reforms mandated by the Supreme Court are implemented.
Some other administrative measures would also be essential to strengthen the law enforcement apparatus. The police - population ratio must be improved, recruitment procedures must be made transparent and training given greater emphasis. The process of modernization of the police should be accelerated and the force provided with the latest equipment and gadgetry.
A contented and motivated police force, well trained and well equipped, would be our best insurance against any terrorist attack - in fact against any challenge to the internal security of the country.
(The writer's petition led to the historic judgment of the Supreme Court)
Ø Police reforms essential for economic growth
Ø Internal security challenges require radical restructuring of police setup
Ø Supreme Court mandated reforms must be pushed through
Ø Union Government should introduce Model Police Bill
Ø Police-population ratio should be improved