Implementing the Supreme Court-mandated police reforms could turn out to be an uphill task.
State governments told the Union home ministry on Tuesday that they favoured police reforms but had their reservations on implementing some provisions of the SC judgment of September this year.
Some states suggested that they were contemplating seeking a review of some directions when they present their status report to the Supreme Court next month.
Incidentally, a similar suggestion had come from some home ministry officials within days of the SC directive but home minister Shivraj Patil had turned it down.
The court had set a December-end deadline for the states to report compliance to its directive to give police officers fixed tenure and creating bodies to handle transfers and postings besides handling complaints against police officers.
The steps, in line with recommendations by various committees appointed by the government, were ordered on a petition filed by former Assam director-general of police, Prakash Singh. The retired police officer wanted the court to order implementation of the National Police Commission report.
Union home secretary VK Duggal had convened Tuesday’s meeting to review implementation of the SC directive. There was a broad consensus on the need for reforms in the police, but there was a similar consensus in opposing some crucial parts of the directive.
Like the SC order on fixed term for police officers, right from the police station level upwards. Many police chiefs felt security of tenure at the cutting-edge level, Station House Officer (SHO) and Deputy SPs, could be counter-productive and the SHOs could turn “into a power unto themselves”.
Another key objection was to the setting of a police complaints authority, a body that would be empowered to investigate complaints against policemen at the district level.
Most states felt that this would lead to multiplicity of authorities; the national and state human rights commissions already have the mandate to deal with such complaints. Besides, it was argued that the authority could be used to harass police personnel.
The states also expressed reservations at the Centre playing a role in empanelment of officers for the posts of DGP.
On points of principle, the states have questioned if the SC directive would dilute the authority given to the states by the Constitution.
The point was made that implementing all provisions of the SC judgment would take away the authority of the elected government and hand over this power to a set of people who were not elected, and thus not accountable, to the people.