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Need for professional police service to cope with multitudinous challenges

By Prem Singh

While enacting the Police Act of 1861, the limited objective of the British was to use police as a force and as a strong arm of the State to maintain peace and tranquility and to put down any sign of challenge to the authority of the British Crown by use of brute force of the police. The police was thus oriented primarily to maintain the unquestioned authority of the Crown and not to serve the people. Apart from maintenance of peace and order in the society, the other major duties required to be performed by the police under the Police Act of 1861 included crime prevention and investigation and detection of crime thereby helping to bring culprits to justice. But after Independence it was imperative to reorient the role of the police and to change it from ‘police force” to ‘police service’ in order to make it an instrument of service to the people.
With this objective in mind, the Government of India constituted the National Police Commission which submitted 8 Reports during the period 1979-81. Subsequently, the Government of India also constituted Ribeiro Committee (1998) and then Padmanabhaiah Committee (2000) on Police Reforms and both the Committees submitted detailed recommendations on police reforms keeping in view the changed role of the police.
In Prakash Singh vs Union of India, 2006, the Hon’ble Supreme Court issued various directives to the Central and the State Governments to take certain measures aimed at making police an effective instrument of public service in the context of changed role of the police. The directives issued were aimed at protecting the police from unwarranted political interference, ensuring transparency in the process of appointment of the Director General of Police, fixed tenure for the Director General of Police and other field level police functionaries, separation of investigation from law and order, transparency in transfers and postings and putting in place effective accountability mechanism. But the directives so issued were not fully complied with by many of the States and even though the States were required to replace the archaic Police Act of 1861 by a more progressive legislation in keeping with the directives issued by the Supreme Court as well as the changed role of the police, it is found that legislations enacted by many States were worse than the Police Act of 1861.
In 2005, the Police Act Drafting Committee constituted by the Government of India under the chairmanship of Soli Sorabjee produced a Model Police Act which was prepared taking into consideration the Supreme Court’s directives as well as the new challenges faced by the police and the need for reorienting its role accordingly. But the legislations enacted by many of the States did not conform to the Model Police Act. Consequently the legislations enacted by many of the States to replace the Police Act of 1861 do not help in reorienting the role of police in keeping with multifarious challenges confronting the police such as terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, Left Wing extremism (Naxalism) in Eastern, Central and Southern India and militancy/insurgency in the North East.
Naxalism which was a localised movement when it first started in Naxalbari in West Bengal in the 1960s, and was effectively dealt with by the Government has reared its ugly head again and spread its tentacles along vast swathes of land across several States. It has become the biggest internal security threat. The Naxalites often thrive on the poverty and deprivation of the tribal population due largely to inadequacy and effectiveness of administrative machinery. Since they thrive on sufferings and misery of the deprived sections, it always remains their effort to prevent major developmental activities in the area for fear that they may lose their hold over the local population.
With the exponential increase in the use of computers and internet penetration across the country, there has been substantial increase in cyber crimes including cyber stalking, identity theft, phishing. hacking, industrial espionage, pornography including child pornography and online banking frauds. Investigation and detection of such cases pose a new challenge to the investigating agencies. Illicit drug trafficking has become a serious menace that confronts both the developed as well as developing countries including India. The problem is further compounded by India’s proximity to the regions which are considered to be the major sources of illicit drugs, namely. Golden Crescent (Pakistan. Afghanistan and Iran) and Golden Triangle (Myanmar. Thailand and Laos). India is a traditional producer of licit opium for medicinal and scientific purposes but a part of licit opium finds its way into the illicit market in its various forms. Indo-Pak border is considered to be highly vulnerable to drug trafficking. India is one of the transit points to the Western countries for the illicit drugs that are produced in the Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle countries.
Trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation and forced labour which has become a transnational organised crime constitutes gross violation of human rights, in that, it violates of person’s fundamental right to life with dignity. It is a serious challenge for India which serves as a source, transit route and destination for such trafficking. Due to legal loopholes, often the actual traffickers go scot free.
Currency counterfeiting has assumed serious proportions globally and poses a serious threat to the world’s economy. Counterfeiting is done with a lot of finesse using high tech equipments like colour photocopies, colour printers and colour scanners as well as offset printing process. Since security features are copied from the genuine currency notes with the help of the latest technology, it makes the task of detecting a counterfeit currency note extremely difficult. Quite often, advanced computer technology is used to give the counterfeit currency note the required finish.
Trafficking of firearms is a global phenomenon. Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir have been particularly vulnerable to arms trafficking from across the international borders. India has long borders with Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Mynmar and Bangladesh  and our border guarding forces seize large quantities of heavy machine guns, AK Series of rifles, rocket launchers, revolvers and pistols from across the borders from time to time.
Money laundering is a serious menace which helps the criminals in using the proceeds of crime including drug related crime without being caught by law enforcement agencies. With the exponential increase in transnational crimes, there is similar increase in money laundering activities. This poses a threat to financial stability of a nation. It helps tax evaders in avoiding arrest by resorting to money laundering. It helps the corrupt to camouflage the source of their ill gotten money and use the same without fear of being caught. Quite often, criminals transfer the proceeds of crime through unofficial channels outside banking channels which are called hawala transactions. Proceeds of illicit drug trafficking, gun running, extortion money, etc are often transferred through hawala route.
It is thus obvious that the police have to contend with multi-dimensional challenges while discharging their duties. Another challenge which they have to confront is a vigilant civil society and 24×7 TV channels which have brought human rights issues to the centre stage. Hence any human rights violation gets widely reported in the media. There is a tendency on the part of the public to support rough and ready justice delivered by the police to some of the hardened criminals instead of waiting for long drawn process of law to take its course. Also, there is a tendency among some of the police personnel to resort to third degree method to extract confession or information from an accused person while investigating a case instead of taking recourse to scientific aid to investigation. Also, while dealing with cases of terrorism and insurgency, in view of the difficulties faced in putting together sufficient and credible evidence against the terrorist and insurgent elements, there is sometimes a tendency among the police to resort to staged encounters. However, given , the vigilant civil society and media, police can use of third degree methods and staged encounters at their own peril.
To help the police redefine its role and rise to the challenges that it faces effectively, it is imperative to fully professionalise the police by requisite skills up-gradation. Up-gradation of weaponry, insulating the police from unwarranted political interference, posting police officers strictly on professional considerations, ensuring certain minimum fixed tenure for key police functionaries at various levels, making the police accountable to law, making the process of recruitment completely transparent and not susceptible to manipulation or mischief and preventing the use of third degree and violation of human rights including staged encounters are actions that must be taken. The role of the police must change from that of a ‘force’ to that of a ‘service’ to the community and certain basic values and norms must be inculcated in the police that would make them sensitive to the aspirations of the people and responsive to their needs and help them in serving the people better.
Since police can function effectively only with the active support of the people, to win that support, police personnel must show the highest standards of integrity and probity in discharge of their duties. It is necessary that the police deal with the public with courtesy and discharge their duties without any bias or partiality. If the police have to be made thoroughly professional then it is necessary that more and more emphasis is laid on use of scientific aid to investigation and all efforts made to collect forensic evidence, where possible, instead of relying only on oral evidence.
Training is crucial in professionalising the police. Training is important not only for skill ungradation and capacity building but also for bringing about attitudinal changes and behavioural improvements in police personnel. It is, therefore, necessary that officers be posted to police training institutions which must possess requisite calibre as also aptitude for imparting training.
Use of technology is imperative to enable police to function effectively. Implementation of Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems, a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance which aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of policing by using e-Governance should be speeded up. Also, if all Police Stations are provided with computer and internet facility and a web camera, it can help the senior police officers to virtually transport themselves to any Police Station through video conferencing and keep track of functioning of Police Stations. Use of technology can be of great help in traffic management. By connecting jails and courts through video conferencing, need to produce UTPs before courts can be dispensed with. Web enabled system of receiving complaints in the Police Control Rooms can help in giving computerised updates on the action taken on the complaints received to the complainant. Use of CC TV installed in crowded places including markets can be of enormous help in detecting cases and in bringing culprits to justice.
Police cannot function effectively if police personnel in subordinate ranks who constitute more than 90% of the force remain demoralised. It is, therefore crucial to make all efforts to keep their morale high by ensuring their timely career progression, providing them with proper housing facilities and reasonably decent working and living conditions. They should get at least one day off in a week and, if the same is not possible, then by ensuring that they are adequately compensated for working on holidays.
Police has a seminal role to play in the developmental process of the nation because developmental activities can only take place in an environment of peace, harmony and tranquility. Even though the challenges facing the police are multi-dimensional, formidable and indeed, daunting, if they function as a body of professional, transparent, accountable/proactive and responsive police service wedded to the service of the society and perform their duties with probity and integrity, withstanding illegal pressures and demands that may be placed on them, they can rise to the enormity of challenges confronting them and help in the nation’s march to peace, progress and prosperity.(The writer retired recently as DGP, Prisons)

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