With changing times, laws need to be changed as well. However, the existence of Indian Police Act 1861 symbolizes the present stagnant state of the police force in our country that has failed to live up to the expectations of citizens. Ajit Sinha spoke to AmodKanth, Former DGP of Goa and Arunanchal Pradesh, and Founder of NGO Prayas, about the present state of the Indian Police. Edited excerpts:
What are your views about the current Policing structure? What is the problem with our police forces?
The Indian Police Act 1861 remains totally out of tune and is inflexible. Its continuation explains half of the police problems. It is one of the major hurdles in improving the police force in India. It is the direct outcome of 1857, the first war of independence. When British took over India they created a police system which directly served the interest of British Empire.
Because of this legacy, the Indian Police happens to be a force and not a service. It exists to maintain law and order and the law is meant to maintain justice in the system. However, laws do not protect poor, deprived, children, women, elderly and disempowered. Instead, they protect the rich, the affluent and powerful who actually do not need this service.
Our police force is not able to respond to the genuine and logical needs of the people.
There had been several police commissions. But despite their recommendations to bring changes in the law, the Indian Police Act remains the same.
Who is responsible for the system remaining unreformed?
There is a reason why police reforms do not take place. Supreme Court of India gave its historic judgment in 2006. The Police Commission recommendations came in around 1976-77 and after a gap of nearly 30 years Prakash Singh (Govt. of India) succeeded in getting a judgment from Supreme Court of India on police reforms. This judgment was handed over to the union/ state governments, even the DGPs, most of whom were not enthusiastic to implement the same. At that time I was the DGP in Arunanchal Pradesh. I prepared a routine note under which Supreme Court judgment had to be implemented by the state government. GegongApang, the then Chief Minister of Arunanchal Pradesh did not find any problem in enforcing this judgment. Arunanchal Pradesh was the only state in India where reform was fully carried out.
However, the then Home Secretary who was not involved in the process indicated to the Chief Minister that his decision will not be welcomed as police reform was against the Government. Mr.Apang did not approve the process initiated by me and the Chief Secretary and soon enough, I was transferred.
Majority of Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries, DGPs opposed the judgment and the reason for this is that nobody wants a police reform in India. Those who are running the system and gaining out of it do not wish to see any changes.
What are your views on NDPS Act?
In 1986, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi brought the NDPS Act (The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act). It was primarily because of NDPS Act, Narcotic Control Bureau and powerful effort made by then state and Central government that India did not become a big center for drugs trafficking despite being so close to Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent (Asia’s two main opium-producing areas).
So, NDPS was one part where government did not disappoint. But India is a natural place for drugs because of its neighborhood. Thus, government of India, police, the various drug enforcement agencies have to play a very important role.
What do you think about the government’s approach towards police force?
I do not think that the current government cares about Police Reform or is keen on changing the Police Act. The Budget 2015-16 has curtailed the funds for Modernization of Police Force (MPF). CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems) is one of the largest projects of the government of India for modernization. This project is of crucial importance because CCTNS would create a national level network under which all crimes, all criminals and all important information about policing and law & order would come under one system. Starting from NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) down to police station, there are 700 police districts and 16,000 police stations in the country. Through CCTNS all of them will be connected.
The responsibility of modernizing our police forces has been given to states. However, looking at their tardy records in the past state governments cannot be trusted with this segment.
Police modernization scheme is the reason for the positive change that have taken place in state police in the past 15 years and that is why government should rethink about their decision to curtail the budget for MPF.
Can you elaborate on the issue of Naxalism in relation with our police force?
There is no doubt that the Naxal movement in the country has survived and grown because injustice is ingrained in the system, particularly in tribal areas. Before I joined the police force, my brilliant contemporary from St Stephan college of Delhi University Arvind Narayan Das joined the Naxalite movement along with some other outstanding scholars. He worked in Purnia which has the worst feudalistic record in India when it comes to the issue of absentee landlord and high poverty. But he and his friends were not violent; they wanted to work for the poor and marginalized. So, there are different shades of Naxalite as many of them are not violent and get support of the people who always have been marred by injustice.
The extreme acts of violence committed by Naxalites may not be acceptable to us but the ideology and motivation behind such acts make us ponder over entire scenario. As far as police is concerned, they have no solutions for it and they are not the ones who can solve it. The only thing they can do in this regard is – curb it.
What can be done, apart from MPF, to train our police officers?
There are three dimensions in connection to our police officers – conduct and behavior, professional ability and what the system asks for.
The Indian Evidence Act does not trust a policeman. If anyone makes a confession or statement in front of a police officer then it is not admissible under the law. Thus, there is lack of trust in the system. Policeman is not trustworthy according to Indian law. CRPC, the Evidence Act and the Indian Penal Code also don’t trust the police.
A complaint is supposed to be written in the same language as stated and facts be accurately noted. But it is generally ignored. When an individual lodges a complaint he is supposed to sign on FIR register but this is generally ignored. Essentially, the policeman who exercises raw power, the policeman who does not act, and the systemic flaws together cheat or deprive the common man of his basic right.
What are your thoughts on women reservation in police force?
I am strongly in favor of 33 percent reservation of women in police force which has now been initiated in Delhi and other Union Territories. There are certain reservations about this among people and officers themselves. But after five or seven years when every third police officer would be a woman then people will not have any option but to accept a woman as the police officer of the area. Soon, all activities of the police will have woman officers. I personally feel that women are less dishonest and more compassionate and will bring decency in the system.
What are your views on the relationship between Police and the politicians?
I strongly believe that if you do things according to the law then you must also understand the importance and power of the politician. The politician has the right to interfere, to enquire, to influence but he has no right to promote illegal things. In a democratic system his rights cannot be denied but at the same time it is the job of a police officer to enforce the law. My view is that police officers do not need to be rebellious in their approach otherwise they will be thrown out. If they want to make positive changes in the system then they need to be within the system and follow ideals accordingly and try to do what is expected of them under the law.