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ABUSE OF POWER BY POLICE OFFICER-By Ravi Prakash

Introduction

In India, there are 28 states and 8 UTs. Under the Constitution of India, (Table 7) the police is the subject of the state. This means that the police are the responsibility of the respective state governments. The organization and functioning of the police force are subject to the rules and regulations established by state governments. Each region / country has a separate police force union. In addition, there are the central police organizations created by the central government for specialized work. The role of the police forces is to ensure the security of people in the country, to support and enforce laws, and to investigate crimes. In a country like India where the police force is required to serve such a large population, it must be well-equipped, in terms of personnel, weapons, forensics, and communications and transportation support, to play their role well.Also, they should have some operational freedom to do their jobs professionally and in satisfactory working conditions (for example, structured hours of work and opportunities for promotion), while they are responsible for poor performance or abuse of power. This article will discuss accountability, constraints in their organizations, and some reforms in the police authority.

Different committees formed for reform in the policing system in India

Various commissions and committees have examined the issues with police organization and functioning over the last few decades. Its chronology as follows-

· National Police commission 1977-81

· Rubeiro Committee 1998

· Padmanabhaiah committee 2000

· Malimath committee 2002-03

· Police Act drafting committee 2005

· Findings by the Hon’ble Supreme court of India in Prakash Singh vs Union of India 2006

· Second ARC 2007

· Police Act drafting committee-II 2015

Human Rights Violations by Police

1. Failure to Register Complaints and Investigate Crime

2. Illegal Arrest and Detention, Police Torture and Ill-Treatment

3. Impunity for Extrajudicial Killings

Issues

1. Police accountability: Police forces are responsible to maintain law and order situation in a state and they have the authority to exercise force to enforce laws. However, these powers can be misused in several ways, and to keep a check against such abuse of power, to overcome these many countries have adopted safeguards such as independent police oversight authorities, internal accountability to senior police officers, and accountability of the police to the political executive.

2. Crime Investigation: In India, investigation in any offence takes too much time, each police officer is responsible for a huge population, because of India’s low police strength per lakh population as compared to international standards. According to the United Nations Organization, there should be 222 police per lakh persons, but India’s sanctioned strength is 181 police per lakh persons. After adjusting for vacancies, the actual police strength becomes 137 police per lakh persons.

3. Crime investigation and Under-reporting of crime in India: In 2015, the conviction rate for crimes recorded under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was 47%.19 The Law Commission has observed that one of the reasons behind this is the poor quality of investigations by the police force.

4. Poor Police infrastructure: modern weapons, a high degree of mobility, and strong communication support is among the very basic needs of the police force in these modern times but the Comptroller and Auditor General of India have noted shortcomings on several of these fronts.

5. Police-Public relations: Police require the confidence, cooperation, and support of the community to prevent crime and disorder. A police-public relation is an important concern in ineffective policing. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (Second ARC 2007 ) also noted that police-public relations are in an unsatisfactory state because people think that the police force is corrupt, politically partisan, inefficient, and unresponsive.

Case Laws of abuse of power by police

In the case of Rudul Shah vs. the State of Bihar (on 1 August,1983 AIR 1086, 1983 SCR (3) 508), a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court under writ jurisdiction passed an order of compensation for the violation of Article 21 and Article 22 of the Indian Constitution. In this case, the petitioner was detained illegally in prison for 14 years even after his acquittal. When he comes to know that his detention was wholly illegal, he filed a petition and the demanded compensation for the illegal detention. Although the petitioner was having a right to claim compensation from an ordinary remedy through a civil suit but the Supreme Court opined that it wouldn’t be doing justice merely by passing an order of release from illegal detention and had the power to direct the State Government to pay compensation. The Supreme Court ordered a sum of Rs 30,000 to be paid by the State within two weeks of the order. Then in 1984, of Sebastian Hongray vs. Union of India (1984 AIR 1026, 1984 SCR (3) 544) the Supreme Court awarded compensation for torture, agony, and harassment of two ladies whose husbands had been missing after they were taken to an army camp by army officials in Manipur, Following what was held in Rudul Shah the Court awarded exemplary costs. Similarly, in the case of Bhim Singh vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir (AIR 1986 SC 494, 1986 CriLJ 192, 1985 (2) SCALE 1117, (1985) 4 SCC 677, 1986 (1) UJ 458 SC) , the single bench Supreme Court awarded compensation to the petitioner for his illegal arrest by the police. Bhim Singh, a member of the State Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, was illegally detained with the motive to prevent him from attending the session of the State Legislative Assembly. The session was scheduled to be held on 11 September 1985. When efforts made to trace him, his wife acting on his behalf filed a writ of habeas to direct the respondents to produce him before the court and to declare his detention illegal. The court observed that there was a clear violation of Fundamental Rights given under Article 21 and 22(2) by the police officers, who were, in turn, executing the orders they had received from higher echelons.

Guidelines given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Prakash Singh vs Union of India (22 September, 2006 Writ Petition (civil)  310 of 1996)

Facts: In 1996, a petition was filed before the Supreme court of India which raised the issue of police abuse and misuse their powers. The petitioner also alleged non-enforcement and discriminatory application of laws in favor of persons with political power and raised many instances of torture, harassment, unauthorized detentions, etc. against ordinary citizens. The petitioner asked the court to issue directions for the implementation of recommendations of expert committees.

Directions by Court: In September 2006, the Supreme court issued various guidelines to the center and states including:

· To constitute a State Security Commission in every state that will have the power to lay down policies for proper police functioning, evaluate police performance, and will also ensure that state governments do not exercise unnecessary influence on the police.

· To Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state that will have the authority to  decide promotions,decide postings, and transfers for officers below the rank of DSP. Also to make recommendations to the state government for officers of higher ranks.

· To Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the district and state levels. These authorities will have the power to inquire into allegations of abuse of powers, and serious misconduct by police personnel.

· To Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years for Director General of Police and also to the key police officerslike officers in charge of a police station and district, within the state forces.

· To Ensure that the Director-General of Police of state police is appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for the promotion by the Union Public Service Commission, based on the good record, length of service, and experience.

· To Separate the police investigating crimes from the law and order police. This will ensure speedier investigation in crimes, better expertise, and improved rapport with the people.

· To Constitute an NSC (National Security Commission) to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chiefs of the central armed police forces.

Holding police accountable

Police have the power to maintain law and order, investigate crimes, and enforce laws in a state. To ensure that those powers are used in a correct manner and without any malafide intentions, many countries have adopted safeguards such as making police accountable to the political executive and creating independent oversight authorities. In our country, the ministers (i.e., political executive) have the power to control the police forces to ensure their accountability. However, many commissions formed for police reforms have reported that this power has been misused, and ministers have used police forces for political and personal reasons. Hence, experts have recommended that the scope of the political executive’s power to interfere in the working of police must be limited under the law.

Why police reform is necessary?

Police is an exclusive subject under the State List, Schedule 7, of the Indian Constitution. States are empowered to enact laws on the subject of police authority. But the problem is most of the states are still following the old Indian Police Act 1861 with a few amendments. Also, in India the police force has become the ‘subjects’ of Parliamentarians and legislators – with a high degree of politicization and allegiance towards the ruling party. We still follow the Police Act, 1861, enacted by the British, largely intending to crush dissent. The particular Act was a reaction to the sepoy uprising of 1857.

Key Recommendations

The police and responsible state and union authorities should commit to two-track reform:

1. Their is a need to change the structure and working conditions of police that contribute to abusive patterns of behavior.

2. Increase accountability for abusive police officers, and

Conclusion

The transformative reforms in the Indian Police very much need and would only be possible through appropriate interventions in skill-building and attitudinal training of police force, through reforms that are both practical and bold, and through the collective action of all stakeholders to drive a nationwide campaign for change, keeping in mind, the difficult conditions under which our police force functions. The demand for reforms in the Police system is not a new thing but now no more delay should be done. They are required to perform a very important duty in the society and failure of this system could result in a situation that will not be possible to handle. In some areas, they do require more power to act upon wheres in some areas their power should be curtailed. They must be held accountable for every action by them and misuse of powers should be termed as a serious offense. The current image of the police force in public also requires some changes. The police-public relationship will only improve when the police authorities will be able to work in such a way that people will feel that they are working only to help us.

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