The police are not a private army
While no one is denying that there has to be a basic level of trust between political leaders and top police personnel, the latter is duty-bound to not cross the lineUpdated: Feb 06, 2019 17:04 IST
The recent infighting in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), involving its seniormost officers, and the ongoing tussle between the investigating agency and the West Bengal government over Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar’s conduct in the Saradha corruption probe, have thrown up an unsettling fact: The close association that many Indian Police Service (IPS) officers (there are honourable exceptions) have with their political masters.
In a recent article in The Statesman, Sankar Sen, Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, and former Director, National Police Academy, unveiled the depth of the crisis facing the police force: “The police has become alienated from the public. It functions as the police of the ruling party, and not the people‘s police. Upright officers, with spine, are asked to cool their heels in inconsequential postings, with little work to do. Politicisation has snapped the chain of command and control, corroded discipline, and made the police leaders beholden to the politicians of the ruling party.” Given the state of affairs, it’s hardly a surprise that many officers are also in the dock on corruption charges.
While no one is denying that there has to be a basic level of trust between a political leader and her top police personnel, the latter is duty-bound to not cross the line. The All India Services (Conduct Rules), 1968, has clear guidelines for officers. It says that each member of the service at all times must maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty and do nothing which is unbecoming of a member of the Service (3.1), and that every member of the service shall maintain high ethical standards, integrity and honesty and political neutrality, and promote principles of merit, fairness, and impartiality in the discharge of duties, among other things. By flouting these rules, officers are not only failing to discharge their constitutional responsibilities and devaluing the force they represent, they are also sending out wrong signals to the constabulary. The police force cannot be allowed to behave like private armies of the political class.
In the past few years, there has been talk of the urgent need for police reforms to insulate the force from external pressures, and also implement the core recommendations of the National Police Commission (1978-81). Decades have gone by, but almost all the states, through various strategies and subterfuges, have evaded implementation of the instructions.
However, the real reforms — of character and ethics — has to start from the civil servants themselves. Blaming the political class for the state of affairs won’t do; their ethics have to be unimpeachable.
First Published: Feb 05, 2019 22:11 IST