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SC move to give police a new face

THE SUPREME Court has brought the people?s aspirations vis-a-vis the police to a grand finale in its landmark judgement of September 22, 2006. The court delivered the judgement on a Public Interest Litigation, under Article 32 of the Constitution. Former director general of UP police, BSF and Assam police Prakash Singh, who is also a Padma Shri, filed the PIL.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2006 00:33 IST
Justice Kamleshwar Nath
Justice Kamleshwar Nath

THE SUPREME Court has brought the people’s aspirations vis-à-vis the police to a grand finale in its landmark judgement of September 22, 2006.

The court delivered the judgement on a Public Interest Litigation, under Article 32 of the Constitution. Former director general of UP police, BSF and Assam police Prakash Singh, who is also a Padma Shri, filed the PIL.

The police atrocities of the British (Jallianwala Bagh, Salt Satyagrah and many others) found their echo in police action during peaceful demonstrations against caste-based reservation in prestigious medical and educational institutions. Free India’s political leadership exploited the police personnel for their gain through frequent transfers. Whenever there is a change of regime, officers are shifted en masse. Police have also become an instrument of political vendetta, even against the media, which exposes crime and corruption. First information reports are not recorded. Investigation in or about politically sensitive crimes and persons may not have been done faithfully under political pressure; more protection may have been given to the mafia than to the citizen! This led the police to indulge in corruption with impunity. Transparency International India, an anti-corruption NGO, found in surveys conducted in 20 States in 2002 and again in 2005, that according to the people’s perception, police was the most corrupt government institution.

Prakash Singh laid before the Supreme Court voluminous material. The court noticed that the 1977 National Police Commission Reports had recommended independence of the police as an efficient, impartial agent of the law, a halt to frequent and indiscriminate transfer of police personnel on political considerations (2nd Report), basic reforms for effective functioning of police, so as to promote a dynamic role of the law and render impartial service to the people (8th/final report). The Commission also appended the draft of a new Police Act to replace the archaic Act of 1861. The court also noticed that recommendations of various committees, including the Law Commission of India and the Human Rights Commission, were never implemented and police had been reduced to a tool in the hands of unscrupulous masters.

Ultimately, the court issued specific directions for the State Governments and the Central Government to implement without delay:

(1)State Governments and Union Territories shall constitute the State Security Commission to
(a) ensure that the State Government/UT does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the State Police and
(b) lay down policy guidelines so that the State Police always act according to the laws of the land and the Constitution.

(2)The DGP of the State/UT shall be selected from amongst the three senior-most officers of the department who are empanelled by the UPSC for promotion to that rank. The DGP shall have a minimum tenure of two years.

(3)The IGP, DIGs, SPs and SHOs (in States/UTs) shall have a minimum tenure of two years.

(4)Investigating police shall be separated from the law and order police. The former must ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.

(5)There shall be a Police Establishment Board in each State/UT to decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of Dy SPs and lower ranks.

(6)Each State/UT shall have Police Complaints Authorities at the district level and the State level to look into complaints, respectively, against officers up to the rank of Dy SP and of the rank of SP and above.

(7)Likewise, the Central Government shall constitute a National Security Commission at the Union level for selection and placement of chiefs of Central police organisations, ensure a minimum tenure of two years to them, review from time to time the measures to upgrade the effectiveness of these forces, improve service conditions of the personnel and ensure proper coordination between them.

The Supreme Court said the directions would have to be complied with from January 1, 2007, till legislatures enacted appropriate legislation. The lawmakers have been saying occasionally that the judiciary is trespassing into the territory of legislation. But, there are some simple questions which the commonman will like to ask them: Why are you not making laws to punish crime and corruption in high places?

Why the Lokpal Bill mooted in 1968 and reduced from a ‘brilliant’ original to a ‘wretched and decrepit’ poor, through eight amendments, has not been enacted till now? Why Lokayukta Acts of all States, except Karnataka, continue to be paper tigers?

Why no ‘competent authority’ has been designated under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act to sanction prosecution of MPs/legislators for crime of corruption? Why no law has been made to forfeit illegally amassed wealth and property of public servants? Why Section 8(4) of the Representation of People’s Act 1951 has not been abrogated? In what way are the lawmakers performing their duty enshrined in Article 51A (J) of the Constitution?

The Supreme Court has spoken. It is for the media to take the issue to every nook and corner of India. All NGOs must take up the cause to liberate our police from the clutches of power-hungry politicians to enable it to function as a people’s police.

The executive and the legislatures must be pressed to furnish requisite information to the people under the Right to Information Act, well in advance of the deadline fixed by the Supreme Court.

First Published: Oct 15, 2006 00:33 IST