Police Reforms in India-A Journey

Posted by Gaurav Agarwalla
October 7, 2017

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘The police force is far from efficient, it is defective in training and organization, it is inadequately supervised, it is generally regarded as corrupt and oppressive, and it has utterly failed to secure the confidence and cordial cooperation of the people’– Fraser, Chairman of the Second Police Commission(1902)

It is 2017 now but the state of police is same as mentioned in the aforesaid lines. Police far from being a tool for citizens to ensure their safety has become a tool of politicians/political systems for harassment of public,power posturing, political goondaism and means of corruption.

Police in a modern state has two functions

a)Implementing criminal Justice system(INVESTIGATIVE FUNCTIONS)

b)Maintaining Law and order

However our Police system had failed to perform both functions effectively and efficiently.As police is a subject under “State list” in Schedule VII of the constitution, some states after Independence opted for Acts like the Bombay Police act, 1951; the Kerala Police act 1960; the Delhi Police act, 1978.However, all of these police acts were a similar to the  1861 Act which has led to intact version of the colonial version stay alive till date.

The Government of India appointed the National Police Comission on November 15, 1977 under the chairmanship of Mr. Dharam Vira (retired Governor)  with a mandate of covering the police organization, its role, functionality, accountability, relations with the public etc.

The Commission was asked to make a detailed review of police system vis-a-vis Indian Police Act 1861, and  fresh examination of the role and performance of the police, both as a law enforcement agency and as an institution to protect citizen’s right enshrined in the Constitution.It was also asked to recommend measures & arrangements to “prevent misuse of powers by the police” and “misuse of police by administrative or executive instructions, political or other pressure, or oral orders of any type, which are contrary to law”.

The NPC produced eight reports between February 1979 and May 1981.The National Police Commission in its 8th and concluding report of 1981, submitted a new Police Bill for India. However the real thrust into police reforms came from the judiciary when in 1995, Prakash Singh, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh filed a PIL regarding police reforms in India. The supreme court of India took a stern view and asked the Union govt to take steps towards initiating reforms in police administration .This led to the government constituting a new committee i.e. the Julio Ribeiro Committee(1998) followed by further committees like Padmanabhaiah, Malimath committee, Soli Sorabjee committee.
In 2006, since there were no progress in the direction of reforms, the Supreme Court made the police reforms a mandatory reform to be taken up by the central and state governments and issued directives. Prakash Singh plea’s stress was on autonomy and police professionalism by providing a fixed tenure for police officers in crucial positions beginning with the DGPs in the States.

The Supreme Court was of the view that Police reform was mandatory and issued seven Directives to States and Union government.

  1. Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police, lay down broad policy guideline & evaluate the performance of the state police.
  2. Ensure that the DGP is appointed through the merit-based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
  3. Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years.
  4. Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
  5. Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
  6. Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
  7. Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organizations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.

While atleast 14 states passed legislation to give effect to the directives, each of the legislation were piecemeal ones and didn’t lead to substantial reform in any way. “Police reforms are going on and on. Nobody listens to our orders.” The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar said while declining the plea of a lawyer urging action to implement police reforms in the country (March 2017).

Supreme court’s directives on Police Reforms are a guiding light, however three more pressing reforms which needs to be highlighted are:

  1. Pay: Police , right from constables to a SHO are payed dismally which increases urge for corrupt activities. The Police Force is an important machinery and has to be paid at par with global peers considering their efforts and risks involved.
  2. Forensic Facilities: R.K Raghvan in his article on The Hindu dated March 09 2017 have argued for better forensic facilities for all state and central police agencies in line with Gujarat Police. Forensic facilities increases accuracy in investigative process and reduces scope for corrupt activities
  3. Technology: With more and more scope of technology , police functioning can be modernized to eliminate nexus between politicians and police and to ensure transparency and accountability.

Administrative reform has always been a point of paralysis within the government machinery as it doesn’t want to tinker with the structure which gives them enormous powers.

Therefore it is important that Civil Society Organisations, NGOs and research scholars question and initiate dialogues and debates to usher in reforms in our Policing systems like Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. The trust deficiency between citizen and police machinery may erode trust in public institutions which may lead to situation of anarchy and instability in future.The political executive must understand that Police is a welfare tool through which they can improve civic governance and solve public grievances easily so rather than misusing the tool it can be utilized in an effective manner.

The first and second administrative reforms too suggested reforms in police administration but a single recommendation has not been achieved yet. Researchers and scholars of politics and governance stress on police reform in the larger domain of administrative reforms because Police have a direct bearing on lives of ordinary citizens than any other administrative apparatus. Custodial deaths,political murders, thriving of human trafficking with police patronage etc are issues which have been highlighted enough in our cinemas, plays and other mass media tools. Public today is demanding changes in the attitude of “thanedars” where the police can no longer be the “Maai-baap” but a service provider. As more and more Indians gets educated and more and more pay taxes policing services will be just another public service.Hence Reforms are inevitable.



  1. http://humanrightsinitiative.org/old/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&catid=91%3Ashiva&id=686%3Apolice-india-national-police-commission&Itemid=98
  2. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-mystery-of-police-reform/article17430921.ece
  3. www.thehansindia.com%2Fposts%2Findex%2FCivil-Services%2F2017-05-17%2FNeed-for-police-reforms-in-India%2F300679&usg=AOvVaw0seKcwqT47NBDoZLIHdu3H
  4. http://www.insightsonindia.com/2011/08/05/police-reforms-in-india-the-story-so-far/

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