Police Reforms

Police Reforms

Identify and discuss the issues and problems within the police, prisons or judiciary in the justice delivery process. Critically discuss how far the recommendations of the various committee or commissions created by the government have been able to address the above.


Policing is not a new concept in our country. Though it exist for a long time now even before the current form of policing, in ancient India during various kingdoms policing was still there but may not be in the current form. It is also said that police knows the community better and they should be not be looked at someone who are alien to the community but as people who belong to the community.

In India police are the first step for people in the criminal justice system and they form the base for justice delivery system. People in case of crime contact them first or vice versa. It is time and again stated that policing is an important element of the state to maintain social order thus carries out the activities of preserving the social orders. Primary role of the police can be said to be prevention of criminal activities, maintain public order, protect public and private property and taking legitimate and constitutional actions against criminal activities and investigation of a crime.

Over the years there is common feeling among the public that police is not functioning the way it should be. There is also a feeling on the authority they have in the justice delivery system. Thus there have been different measures being suggested on various times. There are different reform measures being taken to ensure correct and proper function of the police.

In the criminal justice reforms police reforms also takes an important space as they are a key part of it and the most visible law implementing body for the masses. In the following paper there is an attempt to understand the functioning of police and followed by the suggestions and recommendations of different commissions. [1]


As mentioned earlier police is a law implementing body and is an arm of the state. It is subordinate to the executive and is under the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers and Council of Ministers of different states. The administration of police is in the top hierarchy where it is not able or vey less able to make direct contact with the people. In a class on police reform according to the resource person the practical difficulty of the top order and the continuous discomfort of the subordinate is that they always misunderstood the working situations in which tasks had to be carried out. The many dynamics and ground realities are hardly realized by the top administration as they have limited interactions and the process of being a top official is totally different which minuses the engagement with realities.

The nationalized police forces are Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). The major police force in India is the state police force which is headed by a Director-General of Police (DGP). The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is an important wing of the state police force. Big cities work under the module of commissioner -ate whereby they have commissioner of police for each cities and each district is administered by Superintendent of Police (SP). The basic police unit is a Police Station (PS) headed by a Sub-Inspector or Inspector referred to as Station House Officer. A few police stations have an Out-post (OP) which is a mini-station for serving remote or trouble-prone localities. The number of police station depends upon the area and population of the district and sometimes in case of the sensitivity of a particular geographical area. The difference between urban and rural police is that urban police has various specialized divisions but in rural police there are no such divisions at present.


The police functions on the budget provided by the state. Apart from the regular budget there are many other beneficial schemes for the police. The annual average police budget is around 3000 million. The two schemes that are police housing schemes and modernizing schemes are by the union government which assists the state police force. Under the police housing scheme housing is provided to the lower ranked police personnel and under the modernization scheme means improving the logistics of the police force in terms of communication, technology, transport and other means by which operation becomes more efficient.

As of December 31, 1991, the actual collective police strength in the 25 States and 7 Union Territories was 1,152,586. This figure includes 13,654 female police personnel. Head Constables and Constables, constitutes more than 90% of the force strength in almost every State. As of December 31, 1991, there were 35.1 police officers per 100 square kilometer and 1.4 police officers per 1,000 populations in the country.[2] The hierarchy in police is very much visible and is same as any other government department. The top officials are in most cases from the well of sections of the society where as the lower rank personnel are from the less well of sections. There is reservation as per Government of India act and certain states also have their own reservation system.


There are different educational requirement for different ranks of the police. The minimum requirement to be a lower rank police official is to be a class 10th pass and the requirements increases with the higher hierarchy among the police official. Any graduate can apply for a top order police official through a common entrance exam conducted by Union Public Service Commission and after selection and necessary training they are assigned to each state.


When it comes to technology Indian police is always criticized now and then. The minimum technology available is the high transmission radio phones available to them apart from minimal transport mediums. In recent times there has been an upgradation in technology whereby police force and the state felt the need to crack the organized crimes and cyber crimes. With limited technology it becomes difficult to solve certain cases and other wings such as forensic science laboratory and other crime detection techniques are being used. There is also an important upgradation in terms of contacting the police with the establishment of various help lines and online lodging of complaint. There is technological improvement in terms of availability of data which can be accessed by common public also. Use of computers for maintaining records is a new phenomenon which still needs exploration but is very much in nut shell at the primary level.

The most common weapon available at the police station level is the .410 musket and the 3 not 3 riffles. The District Armed Reserve police use .303 rifles and tear-gas guns. The Special Armed Police possess stun-guns, mortars, light machine guns and AK-47 rifles. A few individual police officers on special assignments, such as VIP security, carry revolvers. Bullet-proof vests are generally available to police assigned to protect high dignitaries. In case of high emergency special police force is being called in which uses higher grade of weapon. The example may be the recent Mumbai attacks in which centralized armed force was called as police were not equipped fully to carry out the operations.


The criminal procedure code allows the police force to use weapons specifically soft weapons for anything which is against the common good of the people and which has the potential to create violence. A constable can carry a lathi and e senior police official can carry a revolver assigned to them as per the ranks. The police also has a responsibility to produce the person before the law on being arrested or based on an FIR if its cognizable offences within 24 hours. There is also power given to the police to conduct suspicion arrests and preventive detention. The police have full authority under the orders of a magistrate to conduct investigations and have to assist the public prosecutor by the same. Though it is stated in the Indian Evidence Act that confessions made in front of the police is not evidence except under certain acts such as previously POTA which can be an evidence for trial.

There is a mechanism at place for complaints against the police also and is done by department of vigilance and appointed committees. After the D.K Basu judgment the cases of custodial violence and torture are seriously looked into and are often probed by a centralized agency.


In the current system as mentioned above there are many flaws which restrict the police the way it functions and reduce the desirable level of police functioning. Following are the flaws in the police functioning as per gathered by the class on police reforms:-

* Unwanted political interferences

* Lack of adequate technology and technological malfunction

* Hierarchy of police personnel and their restricted role

* Lack of training and motivation to the lower level personnel

* Excessive work hours and the bad working conditions

* Inadequate training

* Multiplication and manipulation in functions

* Shortage of personnel and over burdening

* Corruptions and excessive informal powers

* Disrespect and closed view on human rights

* Unclear recruitment process

* Less representation of the marginalized sections

Post the emergency period and after the D.K. Basu judgment against torture and custodial violence there have been many committees on reform established by the various governments and due to the strong lobbying by the human rights groups. Few of the recommendations of the various commissions are mentioned below:-

The National Police Commission (1979-81) –

* Surprise visits to police stations and similar units by the senior officers would help the immediate detection of person held in custody and subject to ill-treatment. Malpractices, if any, noticed during such visits should be met by swift and deterrent punishment.

* A Magistrate or Judge before whom an arrested person is produced by the Police for remand to custody should be required by administrative rules of criminal practice to question the arrested person specifically if he has any complaint of ill-treatment by the police, and if he has any complaint the Magistrate or Judge should get him medically examined and take appropriate further action.

* Supervisory ranks, including the senior levels of command in the police and the Government, should strictly eschew a purely statistically approach while evaluating police performance. Any administrative review of a kind which is likely to induce the subordinate ranks to adopt ad hoc and short cut methods to show results should be avoided. Adequate emphasis should be laid on the honesty and cleanliness of investigations and the adoption of proper methods while handling all the connected work.

* Training institutions should pay special attention to the development of interrogation techniques and imparting effective instructions to trainees in this regard.

* Mandatory Judicial Inquiry into complaints of death or grievous hurt caused while in police custody. We earnestly believe that such an arrangement would itself acts as an effective check against the continuance of third degree methods in police work. The valuable recommendations of the National Police Commissions are yet to be realized in practice.

National Committee on Women Prisoners - Krishna Iyer Committee (1986) under chairmanship of Justice Krishna Iyer on the women in custodial institutions including police custody

The committee said that –

* “Women have a special claim to compassion, defense of dignity, her rights and protections of her sensitive needs and personal integrity.”

* “Custodial Safety to women in detentions and gender justice and the state must secure for her this dimension of social justice in detention.”

* Need for a wide spectrum of key issues, as framing of policy to cover judicial, legislative and administrative reforms

Reports of the Law Commission of India

* The Law Commission of India in its 135th Report on Women in Custody” dealt with women in custody and suggested a new draft to be added in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, incorporating specific safeguards for the protection of women in custody.

· The 152nd Report of Law Commission of India on Custodial Crimes (1994) went on various issues pertaining to custodial crimes and to secure custodial justice. The report recommended several changes in the existing laws and procedures including preventive, punitive, compensatory and remedial measures to be inserted in the Indian Penal Code, 1860,. Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and Indian Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

* The 177th Report of Law Commission on Law relating to Arrest handover the certain recommendations for safety and well being of detainee in custody of police and also proposed to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

* The major recommendation of the report was fixation of compensations amount (Rupees twenty five thousand in case of bodily injury and Rupees One Lakh in case of death). Further suggestion was that the Government may recover any amount paid by it as compensation under this section wholly or partially as it may think proper, from the delinquent police officers.

The Rebeiro Committee – set up 1998

* Setting up of the Police Performance and Accountability Commissions at the State level

* Constitution of a District Complaint Authority to examine the complaints from the public of the police excesses includes arbitrary arrests and detention

* False implications in criminal cases and custodial violence and make appropriate recommendation to the Police Performance and Accountability Commissions

* Separation of investigation functions from law and order work and replacement of the Police Act, 1861 with a new Act etc.

Padhmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms (2000) - constituted to study recruitment procedures for the police force, training, duties and responsibilities, police behaviors, police investigation and prosecution

The state of forensic science in India and its use by police in investigation of crime are both in a pathetic state

Every police station should be equipped with ‘investigation kits' and every sub-division should have a mobile forensic science kits

Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice system (2003) – Malimath Committee Report

* Comprehensive examination of the fundamental principles of the functioning of the Criminal Justice System such as Right to Silence, Rights of the Accused, Presumption of Innocence and burden of proof, Justice to the victims to crimes.

* “If tortured, an accused should have the freedom to apprise the Magistrate of the incident, when produced before him. In such cases, the magistrate can remand him to judicial custody. This should be true of any violence or sexual offence perpetrated against an accused person in custody. In all such cases, there must be a detailed inquiry.”

* Audio/ video recording of statements of witnesses, dying declarations and confessions should be authorized by law

* Interrogations Centres should be set up at the District Headquarters, in each District, where they do not exist, and strengthened where they exist, with facilities like tape recording and or videography and photography etc

* Suggested improving standards of police, prosecution, court and corrections and to root out incompetence and corruption among the criminal justice functionaries

Soli Sorabjee Committee 2005 - Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC)

* The Act provides for social responsibilities of the police and emphasis the police will be governed by the principles of impartiality and human rights norms, with special attention to protection of weaker sections including minorities.

* It has recommended regarding Functional Autonomy, Encouraging Professionalism, Accountability paramount, Improved service conditions, Role in protecting Internal Security in light of new threats.

* Constitutions of State Police Board, Police Establishment Committee, State Police Accountability Commission and District Accountability Authority to inquire into police complaints against police including custodial crimes cases.


The commissions on various instances have given suitable recommendations regarding the functioning of the police and for the improvement of the same. Many of them have been incorporated such as establishment of police training Schools/Colleges/Academy and Forensic Science Laboratories and police research institutions at state and centre levels initiatives. Though it is a long way ahead where human rights can be an integral part of the criminal justice system. It is also to be understood the harsh conditions in which police function, the role of executive and politicians and the unlegitimised burden on them. If there are problem because of the police it should be understood that police also has some problems and both need to be addressed jointly.


Encyclopedia of crime and Justice, Vol. III, NY, Free Press, 1983, pp. 1117-1135, Encyclopedia of violence, peace and conflict, vol.3, 1999, pp.11-15 Crime in India, 1991

Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2001

Third report, national police commission

Second administrative reforms commission, thirteenth report

The supreme court of India, writ petition no. 3042 of 1980

Police Act, 1861: Why we need to replace it?

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative on Police Reform, 2005

Towards More Effective Police, Oversight Peace and Justice Committee, September 2004

Human rights commissions and oversight of police, swati mehta, CHRI

Accountability for the Indian police: creating an external complaints agency, adam shinar. human rights law network, august 2009

The model police act, 2006

[1] (Encyclopedia of crime and Justice, Vol. III, NY, Free Press, 1983, pp. 1117-1135, Encyclopedia of violence, peace and conflict, vol.3, 1999, pp.11-15)

[2] Crime in India, 1991, pp.196-200

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