Police is an indispensable law enforcement agency for any country in the world. It is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining law and order and prevention and detection of crime. It should be free from any kind of political pressure or influence to maintain its functional autonomy, guarantee its allegiance to the law of the land and protect the rights of every citizen as enshrined in the constitution of India along with ensuring public peace and harmony. It becomes vital for any agency entrusted with responsibility of this magnitude to maintain the highest levels of efficiency and performance in order to ensure its proper functioning. There are innumerable ways of ensuring efficiency- one of them being reforms.
There are ample incidents that point to the fact that the Uttar Pradesh police has failed on all accounts mentioned above. The fact that 85 policemen were killed in Uttar Pradesh in the year 2013 alone is enough to put forth the point that law and order situation in UP has deteriorated to abysmally low levels in the past few years and there is no doubt that the politicians and bureaucracy of the state has to share the blame on this along with the erring officers. The constant interference of state machinery in the functioning of the police and the subservient nature of police officers to serve their political masters has led to the current deplorable state of law and order in the state.
As noted by Commonwealth by Human Rights (CHRI) in its report “State Security Commission: Bringing Little to the Table”, the nature of subservience has reached ludicrous levels in the state. Last year Azam Khan, Cabinet minister of UP government ordered an extensive police operation which included dog squads and crime branch detectives to find his buffaloes which had been stolen from his farm house. Three local policemen who were patrolling that night were stripped of their posts for dereliction of duty. In another incident in June this year, a journalist was burnt alive in Shahjahanpur by five policemen for writing against the illegal mining activities of a minister. It was later reported that the policemen acted at the behest of the minister. This exposes the fact that the servile attitude of the police towards the political class can become perilous for the citizens of the state. These instances will surely lead to a breakdown of trust between the police and citizens. It will create an image of police being a stooge of politicians who swear their allegiance to the politicians rather than the law of the land.
The prevailing law and order situation in UP warrants a major overhaul of the entire structure of the police administration in UP. It is still following the archaic Police Act of 1860 which was introduced by The British Government in the erstwhile British India in the aftermath of The Indian Mutiny of 1857. It was brought into force to perpetuate The British rule in India and is completely out of sync with the current nature of governance and democratic values. It is imperative thereby to reform such an act to ensure the proper and effective functioning of police in the state which is in sync with the present realities and not the realities of more than a century back.
Sensing the need for reform in the police system not only in UP but across the country, the apex court in a landmark judgment in 2006 in the Prakash Singh vs Union of India case ordered the state governments to comply by a set of seven directives. However eight years later UP has failed to adhere to the majority of directives. In fact UP’s rate of compliance was so poor that The Supreme Court had to send a notice to the government in 2010 summoning the Chief Secretary to appear before it. Immediately after thesummons, Uttar Pradesh Governement constituted a State Security Commission (SSC) but to date it exists only on paper.
The basic premise behind SC directive for the formation of SSC is to ensure the immunity of the state police from the unwarranted influence of the State Government. The CHRI report states that the functions of the SSC would “include laying down the broad policies and giving directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service-oriented functions of the police, evaluation of the performance of the state police and preparing a report thereon for being placed before the state legislature.”
Although Uttar Pradesh has constituted a State Security Commission, that is not enough. The state government needs to ensure that the commission is functioning on ground and not just on paper to bring about real change in the police functioning. Moreover the SSC constituted on paper is a diluted version of the one recommended by the Supreme Court. Whereas it was recommended that the states should have five independent members in the panel, UP has only two. The CHRI report further states that even the independent members exist only on paper and not in reality. The mandate of the SSC is also unknown due to the data not being available for the same.
Constitution of SSC is only one of the seven directives. The progress of UP in complying with the other directives is also unknown due to the data being unavailable. If the State Government wants to bring about a more robust and comprehensive overhaul of its erroneous police system, it has to take the initiative in abiding by the SC directives which would pave the way for a new police act. Currently the political will within the State Government to bring about any kind of reforms seems to be missing.