Sunday, January 25, 2009

Police Reforms

In the present scenario, the police is one of the most unpopular institu­tions in the country. Even policemen and their leadership admit this. One of the main reasons why the ordinary people fear and dislike the police is that the police has been assigned a role that is intrinsically deprivational. But the reason for its poor image is that the police through the length and breadth of the country has ceased to be pro­fessional. Complaints of indifference to suffering, injustice, unhelpful attitude, bad temperament, rude behaviour and runaway corruption make one wonder what has gone wrong with its leadership. The simple answer is that the leadership has allowed itself to be manipulated by a political class that has misused the power of appointment, promotion and transfer to patronise weak or corrupt officers for their own selfish ends at the cost of public interest.
Irregularities and Corruption
Large-scale irregularities and corruption in the recruitment of police constables have come to light in Uttar Pradesh. This has exposed what was not unknown before. Political interference and money power have begun to play an increasingly sordid role in the recruitment of subordinate police officers and constables.
In Uttar Pradesh, altogether 22,000 policemen were recruited during the Samajwadi Party regime (2004-06). Several irregularities have been detected in the probe conducted by the present Government after it came to power. Irregularities in the recruitment include waving of police verification to recruit people with criminal records, forging examination papers and caste certificates, fudging scores and changing laid-down procedures and criteria for selection of candidates.
Malpractices and unabashed corrup­tion in the recruitment of cons­tables that have come to light in Uttar Pradesh are deplorable. These reflect very poorly on the functioning and leadership of the police force in the State.
Role of Constabulary
Constables constitute nearly 80 per cent of the police force at the cutting edge of law enforcement. A constable has maximum visibility and interacts with the public all the time in main­taining order. He has to be physically fit and mentally alert for proper order maintenance and crime prevention. Constables can no longer afford to function as mere automatons recruited to perform duties of a mechanical character.
The Committee on Police Training, 1973 (better known as the Gore Committee) observed: “Recruitment procedures should be so devised that they are free from political, personal or other corruptive influences. The need for objectivity in selection cannot be overemphasised.”
Certain prescribed selection procedures have been laid down in the police manuals and in Government circulatory orders for recruitment of constables but what actually happened in UP is shocking and scandalous.
The selection boards at different centres were constituted in a partisan manner. These constituted of venal and obliging officers. Lists of candidates to be appointed were sent to the senior police officers heading the selection panels at different centres. The willing officers bent backwards; they dis­regarded all norms and rules for selection of candidates favoured by the political bigwigs by lowering qualifying physical standards, downgrading interview yardsticks, and also allowing outsiders to write the answer papers.
Worse, mandatory police verifi­cation was given a go-by in many cases and in some recruitment centres persons other than the candidates had taken the examination. In the process, the means and methods of malpractices also have undergone changes. In UP, it is reported that a private firm was hired to check the objective-type questions of answer sheets. In several answer sheets whitener was used to erase old answers. Incidentally, similar modus operandi was recently detected in the selection of candidates of a paramilitary organi­sation of the Central Government.
Unfortunately, malpractices and corruption in the recruitment of police personnel are becoming a pattern in many States. Sometimes back in Orissa the State Vigilance Bureau had to ins­titute criminal cases against a retired Director-General of Police and a number of officers of different ranks after detecting corruption in the recruitment of the police staff. Indeed, corruption in recruitment in public service is an endemic problem of a developing state with growing unemployment and economic distress.
Law Enforcement
However, in the police entrusted with the job of law enforcement, elimi­nation of corrupt practices in recruit­ment is not only vital for the health of the force but also for the well-being of society. Police constables who join the service by making heavy payments will extort money from the people to make good money paid earlier and indulge in various malpractices to augment their meagre salary. They will turn into veritable extortionists and sully the image of the force. And this is precisely what is happening now. Criminals in uniform are crowding the force.
However, all is not lost, there is a silver lining in the clouds. Some States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have streamlined recruitment procedures, which are fair, transparent, and by and large, immune from outside pressures. Given the political will, there is no reason why this is not possible in other States.
The recruitment scandal also highlighted the imperative need for police reforms. There is a need to insulate the police from extraneous pressures and selection of upright officers for important assignments. Otherwise, the prevalent malpractices and corruption in police recruitment will continue and sound a death-knell for police integrity and discipline.
Supreme Court Ruling
The Supreme Court has given a major boost to the democracy and freedom by decreeing the long-pending and widely endorsed police reforms. The reforms include a minimum fixed tenure for Directors-General of Police (DGPs) and other senior officers, setting up of State Security Commissions, sepa­ration of investigation from law and order and establishment of a police panel to decide transfers and promo­tions. Justifying the overhaul, the apex court stated that there had been no comprehensive review of the police system since Independence. Although the National Police Commission (NPC) had recommended changes in 1977, none were implemented. The apex court directed each State to constitute a State Security Commission—to be headed by the Chief Minister or the Home Minister—to ensure that the State Government does not exercise undue influence on state police. The DGP will be its ex-officio secretary. The other members of the Commission shall be chosen in such a manner that it is able to function independent of government control.
Need of the Hour
The solution perhaps lies in the decen­tralisation of administration in stages where the local police is made accountable to an elected local authority while training and recruitment up to a particular level is entrusted to the professionals with overseeing powers vested in the state government—a model of the system that prevails in the Western democracies. Otherwise, the colonial mindset of lording over the citizens can never get replaced by a citizen-friendly police force with whom the safety and rights of a citizen come first.

No comments: