Independence of police forces in India have always been an area of concern. But even in a state with a high literacy rate like Kerala, the police force in general has so far not succeeded in rising above the political mandate of the bipolar governments which have been ruling the state for the past 65 years. In cases, such as the recent TP Chandrashekaran case, which were devoid of political intervention, Kerala police displayed their efficiency while investigating. But the moment cases get politicised, they have no choice but to succumb to the will of their political bosses.
It is under such circumstances that the findings and revelations of the one and only Police Commission in India becomes relevant. The Commission was appointed by the Morarji Desai Government in 1977. The government of the day had taken such a step when the anarchy that prevailed in the police force was exposed in the post-Emergency period.
The Commission consisted of a retired Governor, a retired High Court Judge, two retired Director Generals of Police (DGPs), the CBI Director and other experts. After an in-depth study into the matter, the Commission came out with its final report in 1981. According to the report, by and large 60 per cent of the arrests in India were either unnecessary or unjustified and that such uncalled for police action accounted for 43.2 per cent of the expenditure in jails.
It is pertinent to note that the Supreme Court had made a special reference to this in the Joginder Kumar case and had also issued specific directions to DGPs of all states to follow certain stipulated guidelines while making an arrest.
Subsequently, in the Prakash Singh case in 2006, the apex court reiterated and emphasised the need to implement recommendations of the Police Commission to depoliticise the police force in our country. The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India, exercising its powers under Article 32, 142 and 144 of the Constitution of India, had also directed the states to implement the suggested reforms on or before January 1, 2007.
Major reforms recommended by the Honourable Supreme Court included the establishment of State Security Commissions, constitution of a Police Complaint Authority and separation of investigation work from law and order duties.
Transparency in procedure for the appointment of a state police chief or DGP, allotting a minimum prescribed tenure for the incumbent and the constitution of a Police Establishment Board in order to deal with matters pertaining to transfer of police officers was also suggested.
But the Kerala government led by CPI(M) leader VS Achuthananthan had sabotaged the judgement by interpreting it according to their convenience. Far from separating the police from the clutches of politicians, the CPI(M) government has helped enhance government control over police force.
For instance, as per the recommendations of the Ribeiro Committee and Sorabjee Committee, the home minister, leader of opposition, judges recommended by the High Court, the chief secretary, the DGP and three to five non-political members are to be included in the security commission.
But as per Section 24 of the recently enacted Kerala Police Act, 2011, two ministers and the home secretary are members. Surprisingly, in place of three nonpolitical members, three unofficial members have been incorporated. Thus in essence, barring the leader of opposition and the High Court nominee, all other members of the security commission are government loyalists.
Thus, rather than segregating the police machinery from the home rule, the earlier CPI(M) government had set a framework for exercising enhanced control and thereby clamp down the police force.
CPI(M) leaders who are now alleging political intervention in various criminal cases being investigated against them should blame none other than themselves for it. The CPI(M)-led government had, by the Kerala Police Act, 2011, overlooked the directions of the Supreme Court to enact a toothless and spineless legislation, thus guilefully foxing not just the Supreme Court but also the people of Kerala at large.
The Supreme Court had, by aforementioned judgements, worked towards the establishment of an apolitical police mechanism for the smoother running of the state. But enactments like the Kerala Police Act, 2011 are the epitome of legislative dishonesty. An independent and apolitical police mechanism will remain a dream unless the alternatively changing governments in Kerala and their bigwigs decide to weigh the will of the people above their political.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)