It’s not unusual for a young lad to take law into his own hands, thus ending up in a police station. “Chacha Vidhayak hain,” he says, to show his political influence and to deter the Station House Officer (SHO), a.k.a the Thanedaar, from performing his duty.
Such political interference is a reality, although its extent might vary across different political regimes. When at its zenith, even the local netas, who have the patronage of a vidhayak or MLA, start interfering in the duties of an SHO or SO (Station Officer). Not so long ago, RJD Chief Lalu Yadav and the sand mafias he is allegedly connected to were known for such interference. Irrespective of how the police officers respond, such threats do create pressure, as they emanate from an institution which has people’s mandate.
It’s not that the police officers from the State Service or the Indian Police Service do not face such interference. They too face such situations, but politicians might prefer to bypass them and talk directly to the SHOs and SOs to get their work done. This is because a police station is the most basic unit in policing, except maybe a chowki.
But while I say that politicians sabotage policing, it’s not always that they can have their say. Sometimes the top cops in the department, who are likely to be IPS officers, do ignore such pressures. They might do so out of sheer honesty or to show their strength. Such officers give patronage to their SHOs, which shields the lower-ranked officers from such pressure. This could be another reason why politicians might prefer pressurising theSHO directly.
However,junior officers are unlikely to transgress the orders from their departmental bosses, because they can’t afford to ruin their Annual Confidential Report (ACR). So one thing is quite clear. If all the top cops do their duties honestly, their juniors will do the same.
While I would blame politicians for creating the dual command chain, I would not spare the top cops in the force who can reduce political interference to a large extent by being honest. It almost seems that the term ‘political interference’ was coined by some corrupt police officials to use it as a shield for hiding their inefficiency.
Many honest officers might face no interference, although they might get transferred to a remote corner because there is another officer ready to get engaged in the give-and-take business. What if everyone does their duty with full honesty? How many officers will they transfer?
India has been blessed with some legendary IPS officers in the past, like RN Kao, Rustamji, BN Mullick, Ashwini Kumar, Julio Ribeiro, KPS Gill, Prakash Singh and others, who have led various organisations, including the R&AW and the Central Armed Police Forces, to glory during their tenure. Many more such IPS officers are currently serving.
Even though police reforms are in a cold bag, the top brass can do a lot to improve the efficiency of the police force. Apart from the State Service, it will be a challenge for the IPS too. The onus will be more on the IPS officers, because they head all the state police forces, the central armed police forces, the central intelligence agencies, and the central investigation agencies. Hope these stalwarts respond to the challenge!