Prakash Singh

The Indian Police, whose structural framework was defined in 1861, has completed 150 years of its existence. Normally, this would have called for some kind of celebration. But there is hardly any talk of observing the anniversary. Reason is not far to seek? These have been years of serfdom for the police. The British raised a police which would be “politically useful” to the imperial masters. It would enable them keep the Empire in tact. The police would carry out their orders, right or wrong, lawful or unlawful, constitutional or otherwise. Tragically, the arrangement has continued even after independence.

The country has paid a very heavy price for the political stranglehold over the police. There have been three tragedies at the national level which could either have been averted or, at least, their severity could have been minimised. These were: the 1984 riots when Sikhs were massacred in Delhi and the police did not take effective action because the hoodlums belonged to the ruling party; the demolition of the disputed shrine at Ayodhya in 1994 notwithstanding the formidable presence of state and central paramilitary forces at the location; and the Gujarat riots in 2002 when the police did not play its mandated role to curb the conflagration. How many more such tragedies are going to be enacted before the country wakes up to the seriousness of police reform?

It is one of the ironies of modern India that while we are preparing to send a mission to the moon, while there has been a revolution in information technology, while there has been vast improvement in the rail and road network across the country, while we have taken a quantum leap in nuclear science, while we have one of the fastest growing economies in the world, we are yet – more than six decades after independence – saddled with a colonial police with a feudal mindset. There have been any number of Commissions, both at the state and central levels – State Police Commissions, National Police Commission, Gore Committee, Ribeiro Committee, Padmanabhaiah Committee, Malimath Committee, to name only a few - which made recommendations for reforms, but these received no more than cosmetic treatment with the result that the common man does not feel secure or protected – on the contrary, he may be harassed or even persecuted by the police if takes a stand against the establishment.

There are more than 20,000 police stations and posts across the length and breadth of the country, and their working impinges on the life of the common man from Srinagar to Kanyakumari and from Ahmedabad to Aizwal irrespective of whether he has a complaint or not. It is a sad commentary on our Republic that we have not been able to transform the police into an instrument of service upholding the Rule of Law and inspiring confidence among the people.

The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment on Sept. 22, 2006, ordered the setting up of three institutions at the state level with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences, giving it functional autonomy and ensuring its accountability. These institutions are: State Security Commission which would lay down the broad policies and give directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service oriented functions of the police; Police Establishment Board to decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of junior officers; and Police Complaints Authority at the district and state levels with a view to inquiring into allegations of serious misconduct by the police personnel. Besides, the Apex 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 like the IG Zone, DIG Range, SP i/c District and SHO i/c Police Station would also have a minimum 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 aforesaid orders were to be implemented by March 31, 2007. The Thomas Committee which was appointed by the Supreme Court to monitor the implementation of its directions in the various states, in its report dated August 23, 2010, expressed “dismay over the total indifference to the issue of reforms in the functioning of Police being exhibited by the States.”

The Supreme Court directions, it needs to be highlighted, are not for the glory of the police - they are to give better security and protection to the people of the country, uphold their human rights and generally improve governance. If sincerely implemented, the Ruler’s Police would be transformed into People’s Police.

It is obvious that unless the judiciary cracks the whip and makes an example of one or two non-compliant states, things would not move and the much needed reforms would remain an aspiration only. It is essential that public opinion is also mobilized to put pressure on the executive to accelerate the process of police reforms. Media should also pitch in and make its contribution.

The stakes are very high. The challenges on the law and order front are becoming grim with every passing day. Organized crime is spreading its tentacles. Maoists pose a formidable challenge. The terrorist threat is extremely serious and has the potential to destabilse the country. We cannot face formidable challenges of the present times with a police force which was raised to meet the challenges of a medieval past. Our first line of defence has to be strengthened. Its capabilities have to be substantially augmented. There s no room for delay or complacency.
(The article was published in The Asian Age under the caption ‘When Khaki Fades’)


Needed, a movement for people’s police

(Published in The Sunday Guardian on September 23,2012)

Sometime in July 1997, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde called me for discussions on how to improve the police's intelligence collection. That was the time when the Shiv Sena-BJP government and the Mumbai police were accused of various lapses after 10 deaths in the "Ramabai Nagar" firing (11 July 1997). I told him that the only way intelligence branches could be improved was by not treating them as a dump yard of unwanted officers, but by raising their morale as an elite branch, which used to be the case in the 1970s. The same advice was given by retired senior police officers who were invited by Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil on 12 September to discuss policing in the state. They advised him to raise the morale of the police department by conferring the state police chief with adequate powers to discharge his responsibility, rather than treating him like an appendage of the Home Department, which decides even transfers of junior police officials.

"Morale" is best defined as "the spirit, as of dedication to a common goal that unites a group". Morale in the uniformed services implies a clear chain of command, confidence of the lower ranks in their leader and the feeling that they are moving in the right direction. It also means empowerment of the leader to carry out his responsibilities. Accountability in uniformed service arises only when the leader is able to reward those who excel in their duties or punish those who deviate. When Sir Robert Peel set up the first organised police force in London in 1829, the basic philosophy was "public approval of police actions". This was not the case when the Indian police was created after the 1857 mutiny as a coercive instrument to suppress dissent. The 1861 Indian Police Act laid down their responsibility only to their colonial masters, not to the public. After Independence, our politicians usurped the role of colonial masters and made Indian police their coercive instrument. More and more power was taken away from police chiefs. Home ministers, assisted by faceless and unapproachable bureaucrats, started controlling the police. Hence a junior police officer felt no obligation to do his duties according to law or to get public approval. All he had to do was to please the politicians.

The National Police Commission (NPC-1979-1981), which was set up after the abuses of the Emergency, recommended measures towards professionalism and achieving a "people's police", which would be responsible only to law by insulating the police from total control by politicians. No government implemented these recommendations. It was left to former BSF director general Prakash Singh to wage a lone battle against the governments by moving the Supreme Court in 1996. On 22 September 2006, the apex court gave specific directives to the state governments. In 2008, the court asked Justice (retired) K.T. Thomas to monitor the implementation of these directives. Sadly, Justice Thomas reported in 2010 that "no State has fully complied with those Directives so far, in letter and spirit, despite the lapse of almost four years since the date of the original judgment". On the contrary, states like Maharashtra have taken away even the existing powers from the police chief, such as the transfer of junior employees. It is thus clear that no political party wants to have a people friendly police in the same way as they are disinclined to codify an effective anti-corruption body.

Where do we go from here? Could the police leadership on their own achieve a "people's police" without help from politicians? I believe they can. First, the public should feel confident about being courteously received at police stations. Second, they should resist the temptation to use every drastic provision in our colonial statute book such as "sedition" or "waging war against the nation" against those who might merely be exercising their fundamental right of expressing dissent without violence, examples being the Kudankulam and Mumbai cartoon protests. Third, they should never follow the former Ahmedabad police commissioner's example of launching sedition cases against a national daily for criticising him, for which he was rapped by the Gujarat High court (April 2012). Retired police officers and NGOs should start a campaign to observe 22 September as "Movement for People's Police" and remind their governments of broken promises.


Need for a movement for people’s police

(Published in Deccan Herald on October 1, 2012)

It is for the state governments to enact laws and rules to deal with the police. Some events in the recent past have not only shaken up the people of our country, but the police themselves. The statement of a DGP in the recently concluded DGP’s conference in New Delhi that it is better to videograph a riot rather than act against the riotous mob; the inaction of the Mumbai police to protect public property and members of its own ranks (including women police) at Azad Maidan;the molestation of a police woman by rampaging crowds in Odisha are some cases in point. Police in various parts of the country were also found wanting to effectively deal with rumour mongers resulting in large scale exodus of persons of north eastern origin to their home states.The people have started wondering whether the police forces in various parts of the country are able to perform their duties effectively at all, especially in view of the increasing incidents of terrorism.

Most people think that we are not getting the police service we deserve, as the police continues to remain a Force rather than a service. Many police officers who concur with this view believe that the rot which has steeped in is basically due to the fragmentation among police personnel over matters of political affiliation, religion, caste and such other considerations. There was a time when police personnel were adhering to the Constitution and the Laws of the Land. However due to constant political interference in postings and transfers, many police officers have allegiance to their political masters rather than to the laws of the land. That may be one of the reasons for the rot seen currently.

Reform the system

To end the stranglehold of the politicians on the police department and make the police subservient and accountable only to the laws of the land, two retired police officers filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in 1996. In 2006, the Supreme Court while delivering its judgment, aiming to make the police objective and de-politicised, issued several guidelines to reform the police system in the country.

Unfortunately, even after six years of the Supreme Court ruling, nothing has changed but matters have gone from bad to worse. The Supreme Court had said that its guidelines would be the law of the land until the state governments amended their police acts.

Police is a state subject and it is for the state governments to enact Acts and Rules to deal with the police. Most state governments ignored the Supreme Court directions.

Some state governments amended their police Acts, but the amendments were more in the nature of perpetuating the status quo. In fact, the Monitoring committee on police reforms reported to Supreme Court in 2010 that, “no state has fully complied with these Directives so far, in letter and spirit”. It is a pity that in many states, including Karnataka, the head of police force is only an “acting head”. The postings and transfers from constables to the head of police are still determined by the political establishment and there is a feeling that the police is not accountable to the people. Some states have also diluted the powers that were once enjoyed by the police chief.

Totally disillusioned by this state of affairs, PrakashSingh, retired DGP, who first moved the Supreme Court in 1996, launched “People’s Police Movement” on September 22, 2012 in New Delhi. This date was chosen because precisely on the same day, six years ago, the Supreme Court had delivered its judgment on police reforms.The objectives of the movement are to metamorphose the “Ruler’s police” into “ People’s police”; to remove the stranglehold of the executive over the police; to make the police uphold the rule of law and act as per law; to improve the registration of cases; to make the police better behaved towards the public having empathy and respect for human rights; to make the police extend proper protection to the weaker sections of society like SC/STs, minorities , women and children; and improvements in police infrastructure, both physical and human.

Probably the idea of launching this movement is to make the public and NGOs pressurise the governments to bring about the much needed reforms in the police system. The organisers have already launched a website and appointed co-ordinators in various states, including Karnataka. However for any such movement to sustain there has to be active co-operation from the police personnel to change their mindset and allow reforms within the system.

I strongly believe that it is the police personnel themselves who abetted derailment of the reforms as stipulated by the Supreme Court. Right thinking police officers should now facilitate systemic changes as brought out in the Movement’s objectives leaving aside petty personal gains. To make this movement effective, participation of the police personnel themselves, more than the public at large, is imperative.


शासकों की पुलिस

पुलिस सुधारों के प्रति राज्यों की अरुचि के कारण आम जनता से इसके लिए आंदोलन की अपेक्षा कर रहे हैं प्रकाश सिंह
(दैनिक जागरण में सितम्बर 22,2012 को प्रकाशित)

शायद ही कोई दिन ऐसा बीतता है जब पुलिस से संबंधित कोई आलोचनात्मक खबर अखबारों में न छपती हो। उत्पीड़न, उगाही, जनता के साथ दु‌र्व्यवहार, घटना स्थल पर समय से न पहंुचना, विवेचना में लापरवाही, कुछ न कुछ आए दिन होता ही रहता है। इधर हाल में दो बड़ी घटनाएं ऐसी हुई जिनका उल्लेख करना आवश्यक है। पुलिस महानिदेशकों के अखिल भारतीय सम्मेलन में परिचर्चा के दौरान बिहार के डीजीपी ने कहा कि शांति व्यवस्था की स्थिति खड़ी होने पर बल प्रयोग के बजाय घटना की वीडियोग्राफी भी एक अच्छा विकल्प है। दंगाइयों को फोटो से चिन्हित करने के पश्चात उनके विरुद्घ अभियोग दर्ज कर मुकदमा चलाया जा सकता है। दूसरे शब्दों में, बलवा करने वालों पर दमनात्मक कार्रवाई कोई जरूरी नहीं है। बिहार में रणवीर सेना के प्रमुख की हत्या के बाद उनके जातीय समर्थकों ने पटना में जमकर उपद्रव किया था और पुलिस मूक दर्शक बनी रही। इसी लय पर मुंबई में भी असम और म्यांमार की घटनाओं को लेकर जब 11 अगस्त को आजाद मैदान में मुसलमानों ने उपद्रव किया तो वहां भी पुलिस हाथ पर हाथ धरे बैठी रही। बलवाइयों ने जमकर तोड़फोड़ की और महिला सिपाहियों के साथ दु‌र्व्यहार भी किया। एक डिप्टी कमिश्नर ने अराजक तत्वों के विरुद्ध कार्रवाई करने की कोशिश की तो उन्हें पुलिस कमिश्नर ने मौके पर ही झाड़ दिया। कमिश्नर का कहना है कि अगर कार्रवाई करते तो उसकी गंभीर प्रतिक्रिया होती। अगर गहराई में उपरोक्त दोनों घटनाओं का विश्लेषण किया जाए तो सच्चाई यह है कि बिहार में जातीय समीकरण के कारण और उच्चतम स्तर से कार्रवाई न होने के संकेत के कारण पुलिस निष्कि्रय हो रही है। इसी तरह मुंबई में गृह मंत्रालय के मौखिक आदेशों के कारण पुलिस ने बलवाइयों को खुली छूट दी। कुल मिलाकर नतीजा यह निकलता है कि राजनीतिक निर्देश और संरक्षण के कारण वरिष्ठ पुलिस अधिकारियों ने दोनों प्रकरणों में अपने कर्तव्यों का निर्वहन नहीं किया। इसका परिणाम आम जनता को भुगतना पड़ा और इस निष्कि्रयता के जो भयंकर दूरगामी परिणाम होंगे वे अपनी जगह हैं। प्रश्न यह उठता है कि देश की पुलिस किसके लिए है-क्या यह शासक वर्ग के लिए है और उसके राजनीतिक लक्ष्य की पूर्ति करना उसका कर्तव्य है या यह देश की जनता के लिए है और कानून पर चलते हुए कानून की रक्षा करना उसका सर्वोपरि कर्तव्य है। बड़े दुर्भाग्य की बात है कि स्वतंत्रता के छह दशक बीत जाने के बाद आज भी पुलिस का सामंतवादी ढांचा बरकरार है। अंग्रेजों ने अपने साम्राज्य की रक्षा और शासक वर्ग के हितों को ध्यान में रखते हुए इस पुलिस की संरचना की थी। स्वतंत्रता या उसके शीघ्र बाद में पुलिस व्यवस्था को बदलने की आवश्यकता थी, परंतु ऐसा नहीं किया गया। आज केवल इतना ही फर्क है कि गोरे शासकों के बजाय अन्ना के शब्दों में अब काले अंग्रेजों की हुकूमत चल रही है। आज से छह वर्ष पहले 22 सितंबर 2006 को सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने पुलिस सुधार संबंधी कुछ आदेश दिए थे। इन आदेशों का लक्ष्य था कि पुलिस पर किसी तरह का बाहरी दबाव न रहे और उसे अपने कार्यो में स्वायत्तता हो ताकि वह अराजक तत्वों के विरुद्घ निर्भीकता से कार्रवाई कर सके। इसके अलावा पोस्टिंग व ट्रांसफर के मामलों में एक बोर्ड जिसके सदस्य वरिष्ठ पुलिस अधिकारी होंगे, के बनाए जाने का निर्देश था और यह अपेक्षा की गई थी कि उप पुलिस अधीक्षक और राजपत्रित अधिकारियों के ट्रांसफर और पोस्टिंग यह बोर्ड ही करेगा। पुलिस के विरुद्ध गंभीर शिकायतों के निस्तारण हेतु भी राज्य और जनपद स्तर पर शिकायत बोर्ड बनाए जाने के निर्देश थे। पुलिस अधिकारियों के लिए नियुक्ति पर दो साल का कार्यकाल निर्धारित किया गया था। दुर्भाग्य से इन आदेशों को कार्यान्वित नहीं किया गया। कुछ राज्यों ने स्वीकृति का हलफनामा तो दिया है, परंतु जमीनी हालात अभी भी पहले जैसे ही हैं। अधिकांश राज्य हीला-हवाली कर रहे हैं। कुछ राज्यों ने चालाकी में कानून बना लिए हैं, जो वास्तव में सुप्रीम कोर्ट के आदेशों की अवहेलना करते हैं। कुल मिलाकर देखा जाए तो सुधार के बजाय पुलिस में गिरावट ही होती जा रही है। सवाल अब सुप्रीम कोर्ट की विश्वसनीयता का है। न्यायपालिका की जिम्मेदारी क्या निर्देश देने के बाद समाप्त हो जाती है? अगर राज्य सरकार जानबूझकर उन आदेशों की अवहेलना करती है तो क्या सुप्रीम कोर्ट की जिम्मेदारी नहीं है कि उन पर चाबुक चलाए और उन्हें अवमानना की नोटिस दे? एक तरफ पुलिस के कुछ अधिकारी शांति व्यवस्था की चुनौतियों के सामने मूक दर्शक बन गए हैं, दूसरी तरफ सुप्रीम कोर्ट अपने आदेशों की अवहेलना को देखकर भी कोई सख्त कदम नहीं उठा रहा है। अगर यही हालात बने रहे तो हमें शायद भूल जाना होगा कि इस देश में पुलिस नाम की कोई चीज है। हां उसे शासक वर्ग का एक मिलिशिया या बल कहा जा सकेगा। पुलिस अधिकारियों का एक वर्ग, जो सुधार के प्रति समर्पित है, अपनी मांगों को लेकर जनता के पास जाने का प्रयास कर रहा है। इन अधिकारियों का यह सोचना है कि जब तक सुधारों को जनता का समर्थन नहीं मिलेगा तब तक प्रगति नहीं होगी। उन्होंने एक दस सूत्रीय कार्यक्रम बनाया है जिसका मुख्य संदेश यह है कि वर्तमान शासक पुलिस को जनता की पुलिस के रूप से परिवर्तित किया जाए और पुलिस के जनता के प्रति व्यवहार में आमूल परिवर्तन हो। अभियोगों के पंजीकरण में विशेष सुधार होना चाहिए। साथ ही साथ, पुलिस की जनशक्ति में वृद्धि और उसके संसाधनों के आधुनिकीकरण की आवश्यकता है। अधीनस्थ कर्मचारियों को अपने कार्यकाल में कम से कम तीन प्रोन्नतियां अवश्य मिलनी चाहिए। पुलिसकर्मियों से बारह घंटे से ज्यादा डयूटी न ली जाए और कालांतर में इसे कम करके आठ घंटे लाया जाए। सिपाहियों की आवासीय सुविधा में भी विशेष सुधार की आवश्यकता है, इत्यादि। पीपुल्स पुलिस यानी जनता की पुलिस बनाने का यह प्रयास सही दिशा में एक सकारात्मक कदम है। देश का बहुत नुकसान हो चुका है, जनता भी बहुत त्रस्त हो चुकी है। अब भी अगर सरकार पुलिस सुधारों के प्रति सजग हो जाए और सुप्रीम कोर्ट इस विषय में सख्त रुख अपना ले तो स्थिति संभाली जा सकती है। जनता की भी इस क्षेत्र में बहुत बड़ी जिम्मेदारी है। आवश्यकता है एक जन आंदोलन की, जिसमें पुलिस सुधारों की मांग की जाए, उसे शासकीय चंगुल से मुक्त कर जनता के प्रति जिम्मेदार बनाया जाए और ऐसी व्यवस्था की जाए कि पुलिस कानून और संविधान की रक्षा करना ही अपना सर्वोपरि कर्तव्य समझे।


An Open Letter to all the Police Officers of the Country

Dear Friends,

I have been thinking of writing to all the police officers of the country for quite some time, particularly the Superintendents of Police, in the context of Supreme Court directions on Police Reforms.

The letter got delayed because I was not sure how to go about it. When I learnt about the G-files and was told that it is distributed to all the Superintendents of Police of the country, I thought this was the best medium to make use of.

You are all aware of the Supreme Court directions. However, very briefly, these visualize three new institutions at the State level: the setting up of State Security Commission to insulate the police from political pressures; the Police Establishment Board to give autonomy to police in personnel matters; and the Police Complaints Authority to strengthen the accountability mechanism. Besides, the Apex Court has laid down a transparent procedure for the selection of DGP, prescribed a minimum tenure for all the field officers, and directed that the investigation and law and order functions be separated in the bigger towns.

Quite a few states (ten of them, to be precise) have fully complied with the directions. Some states have done partial compliance. Some have passed laws which are not necessarily in conformity with the Supreme Court directions. Some have adopted a defiant posture; a contempt application has already been filed against them.

The Court battle will go on. Meanwhile, we should see that an atmosphere in favour of Police Reforms is built up. For this purpose, we need to mobilise the support of NGOs and other significant segments of society, particularly the media.

But there is another area where all of you must contribute. You have to demonstrate not only your willingness but keenness to change. There are many aspects of police functioning which could be improved by your personal initiative and interest. You should do whatever is possible within the existing framework. These may appear small matters to you, but from the point of view of the people they are very important. I propose to outline some of these issues which deserve your special attention:

  1. Reception – A complainant who approaches the police for any kind of help or redress should be properly received. His problem should be listened to with patience and understanding. The matter may or may not relate to the police. It may or may not be within the competence of the police officer concerned to take appropriate action in the matter. But he could always give a patient hearing to the complainant and do whatever he possibly can his powers.
  2. Behaviour – There are always complaints about police behaviour, that it is uncouth, unsympathetic and even brutish. Why can’t we give lessons to the lower functionaries to behave politely, courteously and with compassion? These traits can be inculcated. Training institutions could emphasise this. Our own officers, during their tours, could drill this into the minds of the policemen. If the behaviour is sympathetic, the complainant is not hurt to that extent even if the grievance remains unaddressed or the case is not worked out.
  3. Reporting – Non-registration of cases continues to be a serious problem. I am conscious of the fact that people tend to lodge frivolous complaints. These could be quickly verified. In fact, in many cases, through experience you can make out whether the complaint is genuine or fake. In any case, there is a lot of scope for improvement in the registration of cases. You should have the moral courage to justify the increase in crime figures to the senior officers and the politicians.
  4. Integrity – There are frequent complaints of policemen demanding money or even extorting that from the common man. Better supervision followed by strict action should bring down these complaints. Of course, the officers’ conduct themselves will have to be above board. It may not be possible to eliminate corruption but you could certainly contain it.
  5. Women/Tribals/SCs/Poor People – These sections of people deserve your special consideration. Any high-handedness in dealing with them brings the police into disrepute. Incidents are played up by the media and the image of the force is tarnished.
  6. Uphold the Rule of Law – This should be your paramount consideration. Deviating from this for short-sighted gains would invariably land you into trouble, if not today, at some date later on. A large number of police officers have suffered for complying with the illegal directions of the superiors. Two examples should suffice. The officers who abused their authority while combating terrorism in Punjab continue to be hounded to this day. Secondly, the officers who committed irregularities in the recruitment of constables in UP were suspended en masse. What I want to emphasise is that even if you have to pay a price today for not doing something which is wrong or illegal, you should be willing to pay that today and retain your self-respect and honour rather than risk humiliation or even prosecution at a later date.

You would see that none of the above suggestions require any support or orders from above. They do not involve any financial implications either. It is just a question of deciding to observe and enforce certain norms of behaviour and rules of functioning. All I want to emphasize is that the policemen should be polite and courteous, appear helpful and that their behaviour, particularly towards the weaker sections, should be marked by a humane approach.

Whatever contribution you would make in this direction would go a long way in generating public opinion in favour of Police Reforms. Even otherwise, it would change the perception of people about the police. The police image would be refurbished.

We have to show that the police is willing to change, that it is in fact keen to change and that we shall henceforth have a people-friendly police accountable primarily to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country. What was essentially a Force is now a Service. The Ruler’s Police has metamorphosed into the People’s Police.

Prakash Singh
(The letter was sent all DGPs for being published in State Police Journals, it was also published in G-files)