Indian polity envisages a significant weight to the expression of potential of regional aspirations and accommodates certain principles of Federalism in our constitution.
Law and order of the state is one such crucial responsibility bestowed upon the states for its stability. As a result, the design, functioning and other aspects of police system are placed under the state subjects in schedule VII of the constitution.
India is a Multi faced nation with multiple identities and is often considered to be the bedrock of civilization marked by unity in diversity. In this context, there is a possibility of social conflict and violence causing instability in the region. There is a need for the police, often considered to be the first respondents to any scene of crime to be sensitized about the gravity of cultural elements that mark a particular geography. Also police officials are expected to rise over the particularistic bias that they carry forward due to their own cultural identities. As a result of these considerations, the police system is often organized around the sensibilities of the state, taking into account the socio cultural and economic setup of a region.
Indian Police force is organized roughly based on the police act V of 1861.
It is an act that was passed in the backdrop of the 1857 Sepoy mutiny. The British realized the problem of over reliance on the Indian army for internal policing. As a result, an Indian police force was organized to serve the interests of the British.
After 7 decades of independence, the fact that Indian police is still organized based on this archaic law is a cause of concern.
As mentioned, this law was created with an intention to subjugate Indian interests and impose British dominance over Indians.
The imperial gazetteer of India: 1909 has explicitly mentioned that in the Indian context, there is hardly a need for a clear demarcation of Protective and repressive functions of the police.
This culture of insensitivity is believed to have carried forward as a colonial legacy even till this date. There has been a perception of mistrust on the police amongst the public due to a general misuse of power and violation of human rights.
In this context, it is to be realized that Police act as the crucial link in realizing the spirit of democracy- where the minority’s voice is not stifled by the majority.
The chronological sequence of various expert bodies that were constituted to deal with the issue of police reforms are as follows :
Out of all these steps, the Directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh vs Union of India is considered to be a watershed moment in the context of police reforms.
In September 2006, the court issued various directions to the centre and states. Even after a decade, there has been little action from the stakeholders involved signifying the apathy of the states.
The following are some of the directions given to the states and the centre by the supreme court :
The most central issue at the heart of the problem is a lack of political will. It is only convenient for politicians to have a nexus with the police men who have a democratically sanctioned monopoly over the law and order situation in states.
There was a belief that 2013 Lokpal bill would have been a solution to the accountability issue of the police. However the dilution of that law has negated such views.
Reform must start from the police officials. Appropriate interventions in skill building and attitudinal trainings are the avenues to start reforms. With the changing technological landscape, terrorism is finding new avenues for its spread. There is an urgent need for addressing this unchecked growth of these negative trends and police would act as the key for nation building and stability.