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The First Step?

 

Judiciary has moved in to check the degeneration of this nation’s police force
SANJAY BASAK | Issue Dated: October 8, 2006
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The First Step? This is the story of Ramsakal Yadav, an Uttar Pradesh police constable, who has risen to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. He is the personal security officer of Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. Constable Yadav’s promotions always came out of turn. And whenever, even as a head constable, this “saab ka aadmi” stepped into the chambers of the top brass, including that of the then Director General of Police, V. K. Jain, they all jumped up from their seats to greet “Yadavji!”

The country is full of Ramsakals, Mulayam Singhs and V. K. Jains. It is replete with the stories of police-politician nexus, silver screens with scenes of top ranking police officers taking orders from sinister-looking politicians. This, perhaps was the time for the judiciary to step in. And step in, it did! The Supreme Court on September 23 ruled that each state “will have its own security commission to regulate its police force,” and fixed service tenures for top police officials.

The apex court stated that from now on there would be fixed terms of two years for police officers posted as DGP, IG, DIG and SP. The order will come in effect from January 1, 2007.

As per the Court order, a Central National Commission, responsible for the mechanism to select chiefs of the central police organisations, would be headed by the Home Minister & Home Secretary. And the watchdog body in the state would be headed by the CM or the state Home Minister and would have the DGP of the state as its ex-officio secretary.

The Court also directed the states to set up Police Establishment Boards to decide transfers, posting and promotions and other service related matters of officers below the rank of DSP. Hopefully, this would bring to an end instances like the DMK government in Tamil Nadu transferring around 100 police officers who were considered close to the former CM J. Jayalalithaa.

The Court further directed that there should be independent police complaint authorities at the district level to look into complaints against police officers up to the rank of DSP and officers above the level of the SP at the state level. But does this decision and the set of related Court orders mark the end of the Ramsakals?

Definitely not! But of course, it’s a great start! If one were to compare certain trivial pointers across countries, for example, in the United States criminal justice system, the Sheriff (equivalent to a Station House Officer or a thanedar in India) is elected by the people. In places like Los Angeles, even the police chiefs are elected.

More importantly – not that the American system is the most efficient – the coordination between the judiciary and the police departments ensures that even if, due to lack of evidence, a criminal escapes being sentenced once, twice, or thrice after being arrested, the probability of being sentenced increases humungously with each passing acquittal.

And the critical factor is speed of judgement, something horribly lacking in India, where an accused police officer can easily keep a case hanging for years. Truly, it’s not just police reforms, but even judicial reforms that have to be taken up in conjunction.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017