Status of Policing in India Report 2019 : An Overview - Current Affair Article for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations


Status of Policing in India Report 2019 : An Overview - Current Affair Article for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations


Why in News?

Recently, the study, titled ‘Status of Policing in India Report (SPIR) 2019: Police Adequacy and Working Conditions’, has been conducted by the NGO Common Cause, and the Lokniti programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). It relies on a survey of 11,834 officers from police stations across 20 states and the National Capital Territory of Delhi. It also includes responses from 10,535 family members of police officers.

Introduction

Police reforms in India have been traditionally seen from two extreme perspectives: either from the standpoint of the oppressed who seek to limit police’s monopoly over violence and end misuse of power by the state, or from the perspective of professional autonomy of the police as an institution, particularly from the political class, and their right to decent working conditions. After many reports and recommendations from statutory commissions gathered dust over decades, the cause of police reforms got a stimulus in the year 2006 when the landmark Supreme Court (SC) judgement in Prakash Singh vs Union of India laid down directives to control political interference in the functioning of the police.

Directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh vs Union of India

Directions: In September 2006, the court issued various directions to the Centre and states including:

  • Constitute a State Security Commission in every state that will lay down policy for police functioning, evaluate police performance, and ensure that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence on the police.
  • Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state that will decide postings, transfers and promotions for officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and make recommendations to the state government for officers of higher ranks.
  • Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to inquire into allegations of serious misconduct and abuse of power by police pseornnel.
  • Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP and other key police officers (e.g., officers in charge of a police station and district) within the state forces, and the Chiefs of the central forces to protect them against arbitrary transfers and postings.
  • Ensure that the DGP of state police is appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for the promotion by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of length of service, good record and experience.
  • Separate the investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
  • Constitute a National Security Commission to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chiefs of the central armed police forces.

Implementation: According to a report of the NITI Aayog (2016), out of 36 states and UTs (excluding Telangana), State Security Commissions had been set up in all but two states, and Police Establishments Boards in all states. The two states in which the State Security Commissions were not set up by August 2016 were Jammu and Kashmir and Odisha. Note that the report also found that the composition and powers of the State Security Commissions and the Police Establishment Boards were at variance with the Supreme Court directions. For example, in states such as Bihar, Gujarat and Punjab, the State Security Commission were dominated by government and police officers. Further, many of these Commissions did not have the power to issue binding recommendations.

Despite a long list of the committees and judgements advocating police reforms, it was found that the level of awareness is dismal about the landmark verdict of Prakash Singh vs Union of India, 2006, a vital document giving specific directions for reforms in the policing structure of India. Only about 14 percent of the police reported that htey hvae heard of ti.

Status of Policing in India Report 2019 : Police Adequacy and Working Conditions

The SPIR 2019 is part of an ongoing series of studies on policing in India conceived by Common Cause. This report builds on the foundation laid by Common Cause leadership since the nineties.

The report has avoided the temptation of reducing the findings of the entire report into elegant policy prescriptions or direct recommendations. This is to ensure that the policymakers and researchers take a closer look at the comparative figures and come to their conclusions. The report focus on the following issue relating to policing in India such as, Working Conditions, Resources at Disposal, Crime investigation, Police and Gender , Police and the Society, Police People Contact and Official Capacity. Here we will discuss all given issues:

Working Conditions: Working in the Indian police is no easy task. Not only do the police work for 14 hours a day on an average, their probability of getting a weekly off is at best around 50 percent. The police personnel in Punjab and Odisha reported working for an average of 17 and 18 hours in a day. Maharashtra is the only state where all the police personnel reported getting at least one day off every week, while more than 90 percent police personnel in Odisha and Chhattisgarh reported getting no weekly off. Added to this, an environment in which junior officers often have to face the brunt of work pressure and do menial domestic duties for the seniors, the stress levels are extremely high. Even four out of five of the family members of personnel admitted that policing is a stressful job. Thus, it is no surprise that the police personnel feel that their workload adversely affects their ability to do their job well.

Resources at Disposal: With basic facilities like a toilet or drinking water still not available in one out of every ten police stations, the infrastructure is far from perfect. Bihar comes across as particularly backward in providing basic facilities at police stations. The study confirms that the police personnel have often been in situations where lack of access to vehicles or fuel in emergencies hase forced them to spend from their own pockets. Lack of staff at the police stations is a common impediment for discharging routine duties like escorting criminals to the court or reaching crime spots on time. When it comes to mobility and staffing, Rajasthan, Odisha and Uttarakhand are relatively worse performing states. On the other hand, West Bengal, Gujarat and Punjab perform consistently well in providing adequate infrastructure for policing.

Crime Investigation: The study also found that most police personnel believe unemployment and lack of education are primary factors behind the rise in crime. Political interference emerged as the biggest factor adversely impacting crime investigation, with about every three out of ten police personnel reporting it. This was followed by non-cooperation of witnesses. In fact, in the past 2–3 years of their work experience, two out of three personnel reported frequently facing political pressures, while about seventy percent police personnel reported frequently having faced non-cooperation from witnesses. This pattern is also seen in cases involving influential people, where police reported frequently facing political pressure and departmental pressure during investigation. The most common consequence of not complying with these pressures is transfer or posting to a different area. Thus, the system is further weakened by undue external pressures, besides harsh working conditions and sacnty resources.

Police and Gender : The service conditions are equally harsh for women and men in police forces, but women have to fight extra battles in a misogynist environment. The study found that the Indian police system reeks of bias against women working in the police, with about one in four male personnel demonstrating high bias against their female colleagues. Without getting into the quality of training on gender sensitisation, the numbers of those who never received any training on gender sensitisation altogether indicates a sad state of affairs, with about one out of four police personnel in Nagaland, Gujarat and Bihar having never received any gender sensitisation training. In a country where 99 percent of the complaints of sexual violence are still unreported, this narrative of police personnel raises pertinent questions about the attitude of the law enforcers towards victims of gender-based violence.

Police and the Society: On matters of caste-based divisions, the Indian police system comes across as a subset of the larger Indian society. On comparing the treatment meted out to police personnel from Schedule Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST) groups, less than half of the personnel reported that there is completely equal treatment. Roughly half of the police personnel reported that the last time they received any training on caste sensitisation was at the time of joining the police force. About one out of every five police person interviewed also reported that in their experience, complaints under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act are often false and motivated. The attitude of the police towards Dalits or Adivasi communities thus appears to be linked to a larger societal attitude towards people from these communities.

The perception of a community being naturally prone towards committing crimes was the highest for Muslims, with roughly 14 percent of the police personnel holding the opinion that Muslims are very much naturally prone towards committing crimes. While 65 percent of the respondents consider Hindus and Sikhs to be generally peaceful, a similar positive perception is held by only 42 percent of the respondents towards Muslims; a decline of more than 20 percentage points. On the other hand, three percent of the respondents perceive Hindus, Christians and Sikhs to be extremely violent but the number for Muslims is 5 percentage points higher, at eight percent. Here again, the police attitude towards Muslims seems to be aligned with the societal perceptions.

Police People Contact: One of the first steps in the criminal justice system is to file a complaint. Thus it becomes imperative to understand the incentives and attitudes of the police personnel towards the process of registering complaints. More than half of the police personnel reported that an increase in FIR indicates a rise in crime in their given jurisdiction, as against this being an indication of improved reporting and registering of crimes. This was despite the fact that a similar proportion (60%) also believed that the crimes reported are less than the number of crimes that are actually committed in the society. Police personnel were also cognisant of the possibility that common people are hesitant in approaching the police even when there is a need — primarily on account of being fearful of the police.

In fact, about one in five personnel themselves would not advise their daughters to report a crime at a police station beyond their zone of influence. The awareness of fear as the main cause of severe under-reporting of crimes, coupled with a high inclination to use or justify violence underlines an enigma for the Indian criminal justice system.

Official Capacity: Data from the reports of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) were analysed for the years 2007 to 2016 to gauge the performances of the states on parameters of adequacy of police structure. It was found that the police forces across the selected states, with the exception of Nagaland, are extremely under-staffed. Overall, the police in the selected states works at just above two-thirds of its sanctioned capacity, with states such as Uttar Pradesh performing much worse, with its actual strength less than half of the state’s sanctioned strength.

Basic infrastructure, such as communications and transport, are also poorly allocated. Diversity, a central feature of a functional, peoplefriendly police system, also comes out poorly when studied through the lens of official data. The inability of states to fill in the reserved seats for SCs, STs, Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and women is coupled with the disproportionately lower representation of these groups at the officer-level ranks. It needs to be pointed out that the lack of official data on several parameters of diversity, such as data on the number of SCs, STs and OBCs at the IPS level, or data on the proportion of Muslims in the police force, are hindrances in the analysis. There is a need for the governments to curb the tendency to hide all such data about vulnerable and underrepresented communities and bring it out in the public domain.

Critical Issues and Challenges

The new and emerging threats of cybercrimes, money laundering, terrorism and insurgency have posed new challenges to policing and intelligence gathering operations. World over police forces are experimenting with new levels of training and proficiencies, real-time use of data, humane but effective interrogation techniques and transparent tools of surveillance. Cybercrimes like phishing, identity theft, online banking frauds are forcing the police to keep itself updated with the latest technology, and hence an urgent need to modernise and digitise our policing.

Campaigns like ‘Digital India’ would ring hollow, if the police are not equipped with computers and necessary software, along with the skilled and trained staff. We are also aware that big data policing may distort the traditional roles of police and prosecution. Global experiences show that the invasive ways of human targeting that are incrementally being used today can be inaccurate, and if misused or left unchecked, even damaging for the perception of fairness in the justice system. This tells us that technology is not value-neutral and the users must be made aware of its threats along with advantages. There is no alternative to a decisive policy change with abundant caution and appropriate capacity-building efforts down to the lowest rungs of police structures. But sadly, despite India seeing itself as a global hub for information technology, there are still police stations without access to wireless, computers, vehicles or even telephones. Police personnel are often unable to reach a spot of crime or unrest because of the unavailability of vehicles or the staff. While the infrastructure to fight cybercrimes or terrorism is woefully inadequate, we still lack the rudimentary facilities. Hundreds of police stations are unable to provide drinking water or clean toilets to their personnel.

Conclusion

Law enforcing agencies all over the world face the onerous expectation of being tough and yet people friendly. Democracies in particular bring in sharp focus this duality of their role. As representatives and instruments of the coercive arm of the state, they need to wield the stick (and occasionally the gun) but democracies also seek to minimise the actual exercise of coercion. Legitimacy of the police force is in part dependent on their ability to extract obedience and at the same time to only sparingly resort to exercise of force. Often, therefore, the police are at the receiving end of negative public opinion.

No wonder, SPIR 2019 underlines the dismal work conditions in which the police in India operates. It also brings out, at the same time, the social stereotypes that the persons in uniform are unable to shake off. In both respects, thus, the institutional neglect of two key responsibilities of improving work conditions and of orienting the police to a more sophisticated, democratic and humane work ethic emerges as the most striking finding of the study.

India aspires to be, and rightly so, an economic superpoqwer with prosperity for all its citizens. But it is also true that India’s future as a democracy and an economic powerhouse cannot be secured by an obsolete criminal justice system where the police works for the rulers of the day and not for the real masters, the people of the country. The police in a just and democratic setup, has to be made responsive to the prevailing and emerging needs of this new India.

General Studies Paper- II

  • Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governanceapplications, models, successes, limitations and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

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