Prakash Singh judgment on police reforms 2006
Political interference in police postings continues despite the landmark Prakash Singh judgment nearly a decade-and-a-half ago that addressed the issue and was pegged to be a watershed moment in police reforms.
- The latest episode of allegations of lobbying by several IPS officers in Maharashtra and of ‘power brokers’ deciding on postings in cahoots with the government shows little has changed in the system.
- From custodial violence in Thoothukudi to allegations of wrongful arrests, biased investigations and encounter killings, the police force is under intense scrutiny. But none of it can be genuinely resolved without addressing reform in policing, which still remains distant.
What is the SC’s Prakash Singh judgment on police reforms?
- Prakash Singh, who served as DGP of UP Police and Assam Police besides other postings, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court post retirement, in 1996, seeking police reforms.
- In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court in September 2006 had directed all states and Union Territories to bring in police reforms.
- The ruling issued a series of measures that were to be undertaken by the governments to ensure the police could do their work without worrying about any political interference.
What measures were suggested by the Supreme Court?
- The seven main directives from the Supreme Court in the verdict were
- setting up of State Security Commissions (SSC),
- fixing the tenure and selection of the DGP,
- a minimum tenure for the Inspector General of Police,
- separation of investigation and law and order functions,
- setting up of Police Establishment Boards,
- creating a Police Complaints Authority and
- forming a National Security Commission.
How did states respond to these directives?
- The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), in its report on September 22, 2020 that tracked changes made in the police force following the 2006 judgment, found that
- not even one state was fully compliant with the apex court directives
- 18 states passed or amended their Police Acts in this time, not one fully matches legislative models.
- only six States provide security of tenure for their police chief,
- only seven States provide for independent shortlisting of candidates in the process of appointing police chiefs (everywhere else, the heads of the police continue to be handpicked by the State government),
- only 13 States have instituted an internal mechanism to enable the police leadership to make decisions on transfers and postings of State police officers without political interference,
- only eight States retain an impartial selection process to appoint independent members to the State Police Complaints Authority (PCA),
- only five have an impartial selection process for district PCAs, and
- only two States provide SSCs, which are to be independent police oversight bodies.
- Not a single Union Territory is compliant with the directives, signalling the Central government’s non-compliance.
State’s Response to Prakash Singh judgment
- As many as 22 States have constituted State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) on paper, while 17 have constituted District Police Complaints Authority (DPCA) on paper.
- Andhra Pradesh stands out as the only State to comply fully with the directive in constituting State and district PCAs. However, the compliance remains on paper only.
- Himachal Pradesh and Odisha have designated the State Lokayukta to function as the PCA.
- Uttar Pradesh claims it has enough forums to handle complaints and will result in multiplicity of forums creating confusion in the minds of the public.
- Jammu & Kashmir moved an application before the Supreme Court for suspending the implementation of this directive based on the security situation in the State.
- In a brazen violation, Tamil Nadu has constituted an SPCA headed by the Secretary, Home, and includes the Director General of Police and the Additional Director General (Law and Order) as the members of the authority.
- Bigger states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and UP have been the worst when it comes to bringing about systemic changes in line with the judgment and that it is only the North-Eastern states that have followed the suggested changes in spirit.
Fact & Figures
- Police per lakh of Population Ratio (PPR) against the total sanctioned Police strength (Civil + DAR + Special Armed + IRB) during the year 2019 is 195.39 as compared to 198.65 in the previous year. The highest ratiois1,253.27 in A&N Islands.
- While the sanctioned police strength was 181 police per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137 police. Note that the United Nations recommended standard is 222 police per lakh persons.
- 86% of the state police comprises of constabulary. Constables are typically promoted once during their service, and normally retire as head constables. This could weaken their incentive to perform well.
- Population Per Police Person against the total sanctioned Police strength (Civil + DAR + Special Armed+ IRB) during the year 2019 is 511.81 as compared to 503.40 in the previous year. The highest ratio is 867.57 in Bihar.
- Police-population ratio or the actual strength of police personnel per has fallen to 155.7 from 158.2. Sanctioned police personnel per lakh population, however, were at 195.4 as compared to corresponding figure of 198.4 as on January 1, 2019.
- Statewise data on police-population ratio (per lakh population) – calculation based on the actual strength of police – saw Nagaland doing the best with 1,301 police personnel per lakh population, followed by Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Manipur, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- The states and UTs with the lowest police-population ratio were Bihar (76.2 police personnel per lakh population), Daman & Diu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and MP.
- Another significant parameter for police coverage – police-area ratio or personnel (sanctioned) per 100 sq km – was recorded at 79.8, slightly up from 78.9 as on 01.01.2019.
- As per the latest data on police organisations, the actual strength of police force in the states and UTs stood at 20.9 lakh, as against a sanctioned strength of 26.23 lakh. In other words, there were nearly 5.3 lakh posts vacant.
- The share of women in state and UT police has registered a steady rise since 2014, from around 1.11 lakh in 2014 to 2.15 lakh in 2019. This has been facilitated by reservation policy being followed in some states and UTs. As per data released by the Bureau of Police Research and Development, Bihar police has highest share of women personnel at 25.3%. Jammu & Kashmir police has the worst share of women at 3.31%, followed by Telangana (5.11%).
- 143 police stations did not have wireless/mobile facility and 257 were without any vehicles.
- The national average of women in the police is just 10 percent. Only eight states have averaged more than 10 percent. In Bihar, it is just 25 percent, Himachal Pradesh, 19 percent, and Jammu and Kashmir it is as low as 4 percent.
- Most of the women are however in the lower rungs and not officers. Only seven states had more than 10 percent women officers. At the top was Tamil Nadu with 24.8 percent.
- Out of the total of 16,955, sanctioned Police Stations, 9,705 Police Stations are located in rural areas, whereas 4,725 Police Stations are located in urban areas and the remaining 2,525 are the Special Purpose Police Stations.
- A total of 161 Police Districts are affected by terrorism or extremism.
NITI Aayog suggested the following reforms:
- State level legislative reforms
- States should be encouraged, with fiscal incentives, to introduce ‘ The Model Police Act of 2015’ as it modernizes the mandate of the police.
- Administrative and operational reform
- A Task Force must be created under the MHA to identify non-core functions that can be outsourced to save on manpower and help in reducing the workload of the police.
- Functions such as serving court summons and antecedents and addresses verification for passport applications or job verifications can be outsourced to private agents or government departments.
- The states should be encouraged to ensure that the representation of women in the police force is increased.
- India should launch a common nation-wide contact for attending to urgent security needs of the citizens.
- NITI Aayog also suggests moving police as well as public order to the Concurrent List to tackle increasing inter-state crime and terrorism under a unified framework.
- Janamaithri Suraksha in Kerala
- Meira Paibi (Torch-bearers) in Assam
- The need of the hour is an all-India Act that all states have to follow and small changes can be made in exceptional cases relating to the situation in a particular state.
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